CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — It is a fresh start for a neighborhood with a troubled past, but City leaders hope a new look inspires a stronger reputation.
A project more than a decade in the making is coming to a close as people just started moving into Champaign’s Bristol Place neighborhood. City of Champaign officials believe this will be a new era for people in need of low-income, affordable housing.
City officials said previously they had issues like illegal trash dumping, low property values and deteriorating homes in that neighborhood, so they decided to create a clean slate. They knocked down homes and rebuilt everything from the ground up.
Monday was move-in day for Bristol Place resident Tony Brown. There was a lot of work unloading heavy appliances and getting everything situated in his new house. However, before this, he did other kids of heavy lifting like building his house and the ones around it. “After that, they asked me [if I] would like to be a maintenance man here. I told them ‘yes,'” said Brown. “By the blessing of God, I received a maintenance job here and also with the maintenance job, free housing [came with it].” He said he was excited to live there because it was the same neighborhood that he grew up in.
It was an experience that came full-circle for Brown and for the City of Champaign. “The City has a long-term commitment to affordable housing,” said John Ruffin, Neighborhood Services. “This is just the next iteration of that commitment. We see this opportunity of homeownership in the distant future.” The City has been planning this project for more than 12 years.
Bristol Place used to be a troubled neighborhood with a history of crime, filled with litter and overgrown lawns. Now that Brown’s experienced its past and built its future, he said he is fully invested in his new job. “We’re going to do the best we can to be the best maintenance man out there,” said Brown. Also, the City’s long-term investment is starting to pay off. “I’m just looking forward to getting over there and organizing with the new residents that are gonna be moving into the neighborhood,” said Ruffin.