The Champaign City Council approved the next phase of a $36 million construction project to both reduce flooding and provide recreation in Garden Hills.
The construction will involve building a stormwater detention basin with an ornamental wall, along with park-like amenities, including a pedestrian walkway, ornamental bridges and lighting. The new Hedge Park will be built at the center of the basin, and will include a basketball court, splash play area and playground, according to a city document outlining the plan.
“This project is a good representation of what Champaign is all about,” said Councilmember Vanna Pianfetti at the Council meeting Tuesday night. “This will improve the lives of people who work here and play here.”
The project timeline has been accelerated by the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), a federal bill passed in 2021 to provide financial assistance to Americans affected by the pandemic. Champaign County received $40 million in ARPA funding, $2 million of which will go to the Garden Hills project, according to Champaign Mayor Deb Feinen.
“The federal government providing ARPA funding is really what allowed this project to move forward at a faster clip,” Feinen said. “It was scheduled to occur, we would’ve gotten there, but we would’ve gotten there ten years out from where we are now.
The project includes installing a detention pond that has the capacity to hold a 50-year storm event — a term used by scientists to describe a major storm that occurs approximately once every 50 years.
Councilmember Kathy Shannon explained how increasingly severe weather has helped the City Council determine this benchmark.
“We need to think about how we’re going to be more resilient as a community in the face of climate change, particularly because other neighborhoods are already under duress because they have infrastructure that is inadequate,” Shannon said.
Shannon also talked about how this pond will both improve the infrastructure of the neighborhood and provide a space for recreation.
“It’s both functional and an incredible amenity for the neighborhood,” Shannon said. “This is not just a hole in the ground to hold water when we get large rains, it’s going to be a fabulous park… I love that we were able to combine those functions.”
All present members of the Council expressed their approval of Phase Two funding and voted to approve a contract with the company Clark Dietz, Inc., which will carry out the work.
“This is a project that we are all excited about.” Deputy Mayor Will Kyles said. “It took a lot of work and input from the community… It’s exciting, I’m thankful and I look forward to the improvements going forward.”
Councilmember Devion Williams also expressed his gratitude and excitement for the project.
“This is just great, I look forward to getting ready and preparing for what’s to come, full steam ahead,” Williams said.
Dorothy Ann David, the City Manager, said that the funding on this project has been in question for a while and that tonight’s vote marks a historical decision.
“Everybody said we can’t afford Garden Hills infrastructure. It would be awful if this moment went by and we didn’t thank all the City Council for making this happen,” David said. “This is a historic vote on this project. Tonight’s a big deal.”
The first construction season for Phase Two will begin this month and pause after November for the winter, according to the Champaign City Council public documents. This phase of the project is expected to be completed by fall 2025 or spring 2026.
A groundbreaking ceremony is set to take place on October 10.
Kennedy Williams contributed reporting.