Proposed University Avenue apartments raise concern

By MaryCate Most and Hannah Prokop

A proposal for new apartments on University Avenue between Wright and Fifth streets is raising some concern from Champaign County Health Care Consumers, a consumer health advocacy organization.

The proposed plan for new apartments will go before the Champaign planning commission at a hearing Wednesday at 4 p.m., said Chase Sorrick, developer for the project with Investment Property Advisors, LLC.

If the project is approved at the hearing, construction will begin in spring 2014 and will be completed before the start of the school year in August 2015. Sorrick said the apartments will accommodate more than 500 people.

Claudia Lennhoff, executive director with Champaign County Health Care Consumers, said the developers have proposed this project “without any regard to the (Fifth and Hill) neighborhood,” which she says is one of the oldest in Champaign.

A news conference was held Tuesday afternoon, so residents could have a chance to speak about their concerns for the proposed development, Lennhoff said.

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Sorrick, however, said the developments will have a positive impact on the surrounding community and environment.

With new development, there inevitably is a cleansing of the polluted land and water supply in the ground, Sorrick said. During the construction process, the developers will work with the government to meet regulations that will make the area more environmentally friendly, such as disposing of polluted runoff and leaking petroleum that is damaging the land there.

The apartments will remain environmentally friendly by putting an emphasis on urban farming and community gardens, Sorrick said.

“I think that it is going to be a really nice option for students, especially engineering students, that want to be close to campus,” he said. “We will have indoor outdoor gathering spaces and community gardens–– those are our main plans.”

Although the apartments are not solely for University students, the developers have tailored the apartments to a younger demographic, Sorrick said. About 30 percent of the housing will be one-bedroom apartments, which is aimed at young students and professionals, he said.

“It is not just for students,” Sorrick said. “I think that we will see young professionals that may work at the University or at the hospital or other businesses in that area that want to live adjacent to a Big Ten campus.”

“This is the University of Illinois — it has been there a long time, and it has people that have attended there and lived in those communities for a long time,” Sorrick added. “There is also a long time that private enterprise has sought to house people in that community — this is really just a new generation of that that will continue to be in demand in the future.”

MaryCate and Hannah can be reached at [email protected].