Vacant lots might be flipped into something better

Local News

DECATUR, Ill. (WCIA) — City leaders are looking for a fresh start, beginning with taking over hundreds of vacant, rundown lots and flipping them into something better.  

The Howard Buffett Foundation is giving the city thousands of dollars to buy the land. The goal is to create more space for private businesses and non-profit programs. 

This money is a way to kickstart their plans to turn these empty lots and houses into something benefiting the people and businesses in town. 

“It remains a problem that’s only getting worse.” 

From vacant lots to rundown houses, more than 700 properties are scattered around the city. They’re owned by Macon County. Officials are looking to buy them and fix them up as part of the Neighborhood Revitalization Program. 

City Manager Tim Gleason says it includes, “Neighborhood gardens, a neighborhood playground, opportunities to get in the hands of let’s say Habitat for Humanity.” 

Howard Buffett donated $1 million to help with the project.

“He was interested in providing a cash allowance in his $1 million donation that would go to the acquisition of these trustee properties.”

That’s about $50,000 of free money the city can use to buy all 700+ properties and turn them into something better. The city doesn’t have to pay a penny to make this happen.

“What we have the ability to do now is to get these into the hands of private interest.” 

It includes afterschool programs, Habitat for Humanity, churches, and labor unions. 

Josh Sapp, business manager for International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, says, “It gives us an opportunity for construction. That means jobs and helps to keep those jobs local.”

The unions have been working with the city to find out what the revitalization will look like. Right now they say it’s looking pretty good.     

“The Decatur community could use an image lift and I think it does that, which attracts more images and potentially more jobs.” 

The sale isn’t a done deal yet. The Macon County Board’s finance committee approved it. But now it goes to the full county board and the final vote to buy the properties will be at the Decatur City Council meeting in March.

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