Eastern Illinois University (Chicago, Champaign, Charleston: apartments, hotels, houses)
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Where are you coming from? Just trying to help get a frame of reference.
Both towns are about the same size but there is a definite difference between the people. Charleston is dominated by the University and you'll find many of the folks related to the school in one way or another. It's quite possible that your neighbor will be a professor with a PhD or a civil servant collecting a moderate but adequate government salary.
Mattoon is more of an ex-industrial town. It has had it's ups and downs. Right now there is a great deal of excitement about the Futurgen coal plant (if it gets funded). However, locals also call it "Meth-toon" because of the crystal-meth problem there (though it is a problem in the whole county at large, and throughout rural Illinois in general).
I grew up in Ctown so of course I'll have a bias, but I think you should check them both out and see what is what. The schools will play a big role I'm gathering and I think despite the problems in both districts you might choose Charleston. There is a certain presence there -- a 'peer pressure' factor, i.e. many of the sons and daughters of the university folks are on a 'college track' and 'graduate school track' from early on--it's just an assumption that they will be going on to university and many getting advanced degrees. I know this might sound weird but there is a certain bit of healthy pressure from so many of your classmates continuing their studies and having an adult population strongly focused on education.
But look at both (heck, they're only 10 miles apart--I used to bike between them just for the hell of it). See which you like better and make you choice. I'd pick based on the schools, the housing quality, neighborhood, and then the social options (but that is just me). The towns share a movie theater and hospital and quite frankly, most folks who go shopping hop from one to another unless they are just buying the daily essentials. For big shopping trips folks go up to Champaign or over to Terre Haute to buy stuff at the malls.
Thanks for the reply. We live in a small town in Tennessee right now, but I grew up in the Midwest. My hometown actually seems very similar to Mattoon.You hit the nail on the head about schools. My wife is an elementary school math teacher so we're looking at schools for our daughter and as potential employers.
Everyone seems to give Charleston a slight edge over Mattoon. We're happy with the University influence in town and are leaning toward Charleston at this time.
Is the housing market in Charleston suffering like everywhere else in the country? We've been looking online, but we'll still need to visit to get a feel for what parts of town might be best for us. Any advice on good parts of town would be greatly appreciated.
The neighborhoods south and west of the University tend to have a lot of professors and pretty decent sized houses. Heritage Woods is a slightly older established neighborhood (70s and 80s) as is an area called Meadowlake (I think that's what it is called--around Reynolds Drive). Newer neighborhoods have popped up around Coolidge and University Drives, and south on Fourth Street just outside the city limits. East of Campus is a new more moderate priced subdivision south of Lincoln and just next to 18th street. Don't know much about it though.
Depends on your budget.
One other note: when the students (10,000+) are away during the Summer the town slows down a bit. Just seems a bit quieter. If you visit over Christmas or the Summer you won't get the same view of the city as you would during the school year.
NOTE: While you probably don't know these neighborhoods just pull up a google map of Charleston (zip 61920) and look to area south of Campus (Woodlawn Drive, Coolidge) and to the West past University Avenue. FWIW East-West Streets are named after Presidents more or less in order (problem being two president's named Adams) and North South are numbers or letters, starting from 'Division' street just west of Campus. You can see where the original outline of the town sort of ended where the streets start to take on different naming schemes.
Last edited by PenguinSix; 10-31-2008 at 11:03 AM..
The north side of town is somewhat hit and miss. It is where a lot of lower income people live and there is a very large trailer park filled with meth heads. There is also one off Reynolds by the fairgrounds. Bascially I would stay South of Madison. Most student housing is between Division (east), and 10th (west), Coolidge (south), and Polk (north). There are very affordable houses along 4th, 10th, and 11th squeezed in between very old victorian homes. Also, the east side of town has some new subdivisions being built.
Thanks to both of you for providing some info. I'll be visiting Charleston this week and hope to get a feel for the city.
It won't take long.
Well I jest a bit. There's basically the college scene and the rest of the town. It's not a very big place, and you might want to talk to a realtor before you arrive--maybe they can show you a few places. EIU football is away this weekend in Nashville so no game to attend.
It's probably worth heading to Mattoon too just to see what is there (so you have an idea). It's only 10 miles away. Champaign is about 45 minutes north if you want to go to a slightly bigger city with a bit more to offer (in case you are flying that's probably your airport of choice).
Let me spare you the time and trouble: don't bother with Mattoon. It offers nothing Charleston doesn't (except maybe a preponderance of insular rednecks but there's a handful of those in Charleston too), but at least Charleston has the smallish state university to provide a bare dose of arts, culture and entertainment.
I doubt Charleston's real estate market is "suffering" because demand has never been that high to begin with. You can buy yourself a perfectly decent contemporary 3/2 house there for under $100K, or if you can deal with an older home and don't need all of the latest updates and upgrades, you can get a solid 3/2 or even a 4/2 for under 75K. In Charleston, you buy a house to live in, not as an equity-building appreciating asset.
In Charleston, you buy a house to live in, not as an equity-building appreciating asset.
Yea, this is a really good point. If you are buying in Charleston you are basically stepping off the 'property ladder' that is going on in the rest of the country. Home prices appreciate just slightly above the inflation rate and it is still possible to buy a nice home for prices that would be just a 1br shack in many other parts of the US.
If you are a handyman, you might consider buying an older place, throwing some money into it, and trying to turn a bit of a profit that way when you leave again, but generally you home will not have massive increases in value like you've seen elsewhere.
There are many people who live in smaller towns who simply cannot move to bigger cities or their suburbs later in life. They sell their five bedroom place in Charleston for $200,000 and find that doesn't go very far elsewhere in the US. Something you might want to consider long term.
Based on what everyone has said, there appear to be some nice looking places in Charleston in the $100-150k range. Hopefully, this would be a long term move for us. The appreciation of home value is a concern; however, at this time it is better for us to be able to afford a nice 3 bedroom/2 bath regardless of how the value might appreciate. It is nice to see a place where you don't have to drop $250k for 1000 square feet and one bath.
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