The final community engagement meeting for the first step of developing a new comprehensive plan for the City of Jacksonville was held Wednesday afternoon, however, there is still time for the public to make their voices heard.
Representatives from the Illinois Housing Development Authority met with community leaders and members of the public to present data that has been collected over the last year from the recently completed housing stock survey, community needs assessment, and market data chapters of the comprehensive plan.
Community Revitalization Planner for IHDA, Meghan Cuneo says the purpose of the meeting was to show the public the information they have gathered so far so IHDA can help the city develop a list of goals and what the path forward will look like.
Cuneo says several needs have already jumped out at her in her review of the data so far. “There have been a lot of different calls for specific amenities in the community and a lot of what we talked about in this meeting was the recreational needs that folks want, and catering to the fact that folks really need a lot of those assets that have really either were exacerbated by the pandemic, or the fact that folks are working from home.
So we just want to focus on infrastructure improvements whether it be to the downtown, making sure housing remains affordable and well maintained and approachable for folks who may not live here. And making sure there are cool amenities for families and young people alike. A lot of those were called out as interesting facts throughout the plan.”
Cuneo says IHDA has partnered with about 27 communities so far, and Jacksonville is the largest whole community IHDA has worked with through the community revitalization program. She says the community has been really responsive to the engagement tools and attending meetings. She says there is always room for more voices and new ideas to be heard.
President of the Jacksonville Regional Economic Development Corporation, Kristin Jamison says IHDA has been great to work with and she is glad to see members of the community come together to work on moving the city forward in developing a plan for the next 20 years.
“So I know we’ve talked about the City of Jacksonville needing that comprehensive plan. The one that we are working from at this point is over twenty years old. So it does give us a lot of great conversation in terms of how to pull that together. So I know that future conversations will talk about issues with housing, and issues with the workforce. We know we need more people to fill the jobs that are here in Jacksonville, but clearly, we need housing for those folks. And then we also need the recreational aspects that would help draw a person to this area. So we will certainly be looking at this holistically to figure out what are the next best steps to put Jacksonville in the right light.”
Jamison says she thinks the really interesting piece from all of this is, what the city does with the data that has been collected. “So we find out the type of issues we have with housing and then what do we do to remediate that. I know some great things have already started with the land bank process that Brian Nyberg is working on. That’s really exciting because that helps take blighted properties and put them back on the tax roll.
That’s the first step in a lot of these conversations. What do we do with this data to make things better? And I think probably the best takeaway from all of it is that we are all committed to making Jacksonville the best place it can be. So now it’s rolling up our sleeves and figuring out how to put plans into action.”
Other items discussed were the need for a balanced approach to the availability of more housing in the city ranging from affordable multi-family dwellings to more single-family dwellings aimed at higher-income buyers.
The need for greater communication with students attending college in Jacksonville was also discussed. Cuneo says the same surveys were offered to college students and approximately 42% said they would want to stay in Jacksonville post-graduation but were not aware of what housing or job options were available to them.
47% of those who did consider staying in Jacksonville said the existing housing was not affordable for them post-graduation. The survey also found a lack of diverse housing types, such as row houses, townhouses, and condos as examples city-wide.
Of the properties surveyed, 4.7% were visibly vacant, with what Cuneo called a glaring hole in the overall vacancy map of Jacksonville showing the location of the former Jacksonville Developmental Center.
Mayor Andy Ezard and Community Development Director Brian Nyberg each commented to the representatives present on the continuing issues with the JDC grounds and what if anything can be done through the State of Illinois to get something done with them to turn the nearly 100-acre parcel into productive space again.
Anyone who wants to complete the survey can click here:
The community participation voting link for the plan will be open until June 15th. You can also access it via the QR code below.