CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCCU) — Tom Garza, director of the preservation and conservation association, is in the business of preserving things. His current project is his own neighborhood.
"I just love the street," Garza said. "I love the brick street; I love the old street lights; I like the quietness of the neighborhood."
The Champaign Unit 4 School District announced Monday night it's purchasing a home on West Park Avenue, just a half block away from Garza's own home. It's one of four homes the district has purchased as part of the Dr. Howard Elementary School rebuild project.
"It's not accessible, it's got multi-levels, no elevator, so it's time for it to be replaced," Champaign Unit 4 School Board President Chris Kloeppel said. "There's some structural issues that don't allow us to remodel it, refurbish it, from within."
Board members say there are no plans in place yet for the homes they've bought and that's what has neighbors, like Garza, concerned. He's worried about the homes being converted into parking lots.
The Board says they plan to involve the community in the decision process.
"Our design team will be creating places for that," Kloeppel said. "Going to the neighbors and saying 'hey, we have the possibility of doing a three story building we could do a two story building."
But so far, Garza says he and other neighbors don't feel like they're being heard at board meetings they've attended.
"I think they've become so involved in their plan to improve everything and fix everything and grow and do all these things that they've forgotten that they are part of the neighborhood," Garza said. "Being part of the neighborhood implies a responsibility to the neighbors and right now they only seem to be concerned about what's convenient for them."