Neighborhood input “shaped” the design of the ongoing Garden Hills improvement project, of which the latest phase costs an estimated $35 million to install…
For years, Garden Hills residents, property owners and advocates have been unsuccessfully pleading with the city of Champaign for improved living conditions, more city funding and reduced crime. While plans are underway for some improvements, some said it should have come sooner.
In June, the city was awarded $25 million through the American Rescue Plan (ARP), a COVID-19 economic relief plan disbursing emergency funds. Half of the funds have already been given to the city, while the other half will be received next year. Kay Nees, finance director of the city, said the ARP was like a “key missing piece” in order to get to work on Garden Hills. The two efforts, a drainage project to target flooding, and a lighting project to make the streets safer, have their own timeline, budget and design. The first phase of the drainage project has already been completed: creating greenspace to install detention basins. The city worked with residents to demolish properties that were frequently getting flooded to make room for detention basins.
The city’s multi-decade improvement plan for Garden Hills has increased the community residents’ trepidation as they see general deterioration and an abundance of issues piling up while the city’s improvement efforts appear to have slowed. “We’re just not a priority, let’s put it that way,” resident Amy Revilla said.
As much as six inches of rain pummeled Champaign County last summer, flooding roads, basements and sewers and causing tens of thousands of dollars in repairs to residents' homes.
Chris and Barb Genzel have lived in the same house in Urbana for nearly 40 years and they say their house has never flooded. "Behind our house is a farm at a lower elevation, and our house backs up to a drainage ditch. We knew we were never going to flood," Chris Genzel said recently.