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Old 05-18-2009, 09:55 PM
 
4 posts, read 28,290 times
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We're a family moving to Champaign for graduate school. We have small children and are looking for a rental in a safe neighborhood which is predominantly family-oriented. Any advise would be greatly appreciated!

Also, can anyone tell me anything about the Sawgrass neighborhood (near the 57 & 72)? Is it a safe area? Good neighborhood?

I feel silly asking this one, but here goes. Are basements a good idea in Champaign/Urbana? I'm thinking tornadoes. I have family in the Midwest and they all have basements and weather radios. I've never lived anywhere with tornadoes. I've noticed a good number of rentals in the area don't have basements. So are tornadoes not an issue? (This isn't as important as a safe neighborhood...unless tornadoes really are a problem...I'm just curious and want to know if we should look for a house with a basement.)

Thanks very much!
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Old 05-19-2009, 01:20 AM
 
62 posts, read 278,321 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by itinerantg View Post
We're a family moving to Champaign for graduate school. We have small children and are looking for a rental in a safe neighborhood which is predominantly family-oriented. Any advise would be greatly appreciated!

Also, can anyone tell me anything about the Sawgrass neighborhood (near the 57 & 72)? Is it a safe area? Good neighborhood?

I feel silly asking this one, but here goes. Are basements a good idea in Champaign/Urbana? I'm thinking tornadoes. I have family in the Midwest and they all have basements and weather radios. I've never lived anywhere with tornadoes. I've noticed a good number of rentals in the area don't have basements. So are tornadoes not an issue? (This isn't as important as a safe neighborhood...unless tornadoes really are a problem...I'm just curious and want to know if we should look for a house with a basement.)

Thanks very much!
I've lived in Champaign for a number of years and I have to confess I've never heard of a Sawgrass "neighborhood" per se, although I am aware of a Sawgrass subdivision. The Sawgrass subdivision is a safe place to live mainly because it's on the west side of I-57. Essentially any subdivison on the west side of I-57 is going to be very safe. Further, most any subdivision south of about Devonshire Drive is likewise going to be very safe. There also are some safe Champaign neighborhoods & subdivisions in other locations (and closer to campus), but they tend to be more like "pockets" of safety. If you use these guidelines (west of I-57 or south of Devonshire) you're going to be fine, and any subdivision in these locations will be very family oriented and should be friendly.

As for basements, the water table in Champaign is extremely close to the surface and some areas of the city are poorly drained (east-central Illinois used to be one big swamp before it was settled). Just in the city of Champaign alone, since I've lived here we've spent something like $40+ million dollars on flood mitigation projects. Basement flooding is a common problem here. However, if you have a well-drained lot and a poured concrete basement, you'll probably be safe from flooding problems, although I have a friend or two with poured concrete basements and they still had flooding problems (which can be very expensive to fix unless you're a determined do-it-yourselfer). I'd strongly recommend you NOT get a house with a brick basement, only poured concrete.

I'd also recommend you not get too worried about tornadoes. Sure, we get tornado warnings several times a year in Champaign, but I recommend you be much more concerned about which neighborhood you live in, which it seems you are. Your likelihood of being a victim of violent crime in Champaign is vastly higher than your likelihood of taking a direct hit from a tornado.

Champaign-Urbana is a pretty good community and I've enjoyed it here. I also attended grad school at U of I and then decided to stay; this is a very common story in this town (although in my case I'll finally be leaving soon). Good luck! :-)
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Old 05-19-2009, 08:59 AM
 
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Thanks so much! We were looking at a place north of the 72, west of the 57...which I think is a lot farther north than the area you were writing about. Do you know anything about that area?

We've lived in bigger cities (Phoenix, Los Angeles), but I never felt overly concerned with the neighborhood until we had kids. Thanks for that information on basements. I definitely care more about the neighborhood, but we were hoping to gain a little extra space with a basement. Plus the whole tornado thing. Doesn't sound so appealing now that you mention the lack of dry basements.

Thanks again!
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Old 05-19-2009, 12:43 PM
 
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Sawgrass is very new and fairly nice. I would imagine you would be quite safe there. You should be safe anywhere in Champaign as long as your smart. Don't walk north of University Ave after dark would be the best advice I could give.

Basements are nice to have for a Tornado but not completely necessary. Cahmpaign/Urbana actually sits in a slight valley that sends tornadoes north or south of town. If you choose Sawgrass you will be on the outskirts of town so you might be in slight jeopardy but I doubt it.

I lived in C-U my whole life and it is a good place to live, downtown Champaign is growing and a lot of fun. Tons of neat restuarants and bars. Schools are fairly descent.
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Old 05-19-2009, 01:53 PM
 
62 posts, read 278,321 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by itinerantg View Post
Thanks so much! We were looking at a place north of the 72, west of the 57...which I think is a lot farther north than the area you were writing about. Do you know anything about that area?

We've lived in bigger cities (Phoenix, Los Angeles), but I never felt overly concerned with the neighborhood until we had kids. Thanks for that information on basements. I definitely care more about the neighborhood, but we were hoping to gain a little extra space with a basement. Plus the whole tornado thing. Doesn't sound so appealing now that you mention the lack of dry basements.

Thanks again!
You're very welcome and I'm glad to help. I'm also getting ready to move and the City-Data forum has been a Godsend; there are many helpful people willing to provide good advice on here.

As for your questions: I am confident that *any* subdivision (or country home) west of I-57 is going to be very safe, regardless of how far north you are relative to Champaign city limits. Indeed, there are no crime-prone areas immediately due west of where I-57 runs through Champaign. There are various subdivisions and farm lands west of I-57 and then after about 6 or 7 miles you hit the city of Mahomet, which is an extremely desirable suburb of Champaign that is known for their good public schools. Also there are some newer subdivisions west of I-57 that are quite popular and they market themselves with the slogan, "Champaign address and Mahomet schools!" and these might be worth checking out.

Speaking of schools, if you plan to have kids in the Champaign public schools then you probably need to carefully think this through. I regret to say the Champaign public schools generally have a bad reputation. Others might dispute this, but let me say that I work in the university research community and I've never known a single professional colleague that kept their kids in the Champaign public schools. They either send them to private school, or Uni High, or move to a suburban town (usually Mahomet or St. Joseph), or home school. If your kids are old enough and they can get admitted to the University Lab School (Uni High), then they'll be fine. Uni High is one of the top middle/high schools in the country and their curriculum starts at the 7th grade.

I don't have kids so I've never had to personally grapple with this issue. But I can say that if I did have kids, there's zero chance I'd let them attend the Champaign public schools (with the possible exception of the elementary schools located in the far south end of town, but then I'd make other arrangements when they hit middle and high school).
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Old 05-19-2009, 03:10 PM
 
4 posts, read 28,290 times
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Thank you both for your feedback...it's so incredibly helpful!

We're thinking about a townhouse/condo situation in the area I was asking about, but we're not sure yet. Do you know anything about that type of housing there? It's almost embarrassing to admit that this isn't the first time we've found housing without ever going to the town...we move around a fair amount, so it's almost a necessary evil sometimes. Anyway, your thoughts on the different areas of Champaign are just golden...really appreciated!

We're homeschooling, but we still like to live in areas with good schools and families invested/engaged in the community.

Thanks again!
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Old 05-19-2009, 03:15 PM
 
4 posts, read 28,290 times
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Oh, and thanks for the comment regarding tornadoes, too. The townhouse we're considering has one. It sounds like it's in the area which might be more at risk...being north of town...so I guess we'd be fine if we go with that one.

Also, does anyone know about calling police departments to ask about specific neighborhoods? Someone suggested I do that. In all of our moves I've never even considered that, to be honest. (Possibly thinking that falls outside of the police dept. purview...but since it's illegal for real estate/rental agents to comment on area safety maybe the police dept. is the place to go?)

Thanks!
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