New Central High School Site

History and ProcessMap of median student population density.

The discussion around building a new Central High School has been ongoing since 2006. Since then, the Board of Education has held nine community meetings in addition to its regular Board of Education meetings to discuss this topic more in depth. During the 2012-2013 school year, the District began the Future Facilities process with the help of public engagement firm DeJong-Richter. More than 1,500 individuals participated in community meetings, online questionnaires, focus groups, and phone polls conducted to gather feedback about the District’s school facilities and what its priorities should be moving forward.  

During the 2013-2014 school year, the Board contracted with Gorski Reifsteck/DLR Group to uncover any interior high school sites that were not yet under consideration and assist the Board in identifying the site that best fits the District’s needs. The Board began with a list of 16 possible sites. 

A map of the final six sites that were considered by the board of educationOf the available sites, the Board examined each site objectively and looked at factors such as transportation costs, size, and accessibility. It narrowed the list to six and then four, taking the time to further examine the final sites with a team of engineers. It determined that the District would purchase the final site on Interstate Drive due to its proximity to the community compared to other available sites, existing city infrastructure, and room for future growth. This site was announced to the community on January 27, 2014.  

In April 2014, the Park District Board of Commissioners brought forward the possibility of Spalding Park, which was previously unavailable for the School District to consider. After fully investigating possibilities at Spalding Park, the School Board concluded that it would not move forward in seeking to acquire that site for the new school due to its limitations, which included the site size, significant additional costs related to land acquisition and construction, logistical challenges of site acquisition, impact on Franklin Middle School, parking, ability to expand the school in the future, and the impact on residents of the Spalding Park neighborhood, among others.

New Central High School Site on Interstate Drive & Neil Street

The map below indicates the 80 acre site the Board of Education has purchased for a new Central High School:

City of Champaign Growth Plan in New School Site Area

The Central High School site on Interstate Drive is indicated in the City of Champaign's Champaign, Tomorrow Comprehensive Plan as a Tier 1 growth area. Below are the City's plans to develop this area.

Central Site Evaluation and Acrage Needs

Site Selection Acreage Needs

Site Selection Matrix

Requests for Use of Acreage at Dodds Park

Presentation from Superintendent Wiegand to Park District Board of Commissioners - February 25, 2015

Letter from Superintendent Wiegand to Park District - February 2015

Letter from Superintendent Wiegand to Park District - July 2014

Eight Year Journey to Site Central High School

"Interstate Drive High School - The Long Successful Quest" - Memo from Attorney Mike Tague

Atkins & Ponder Property Acquisition Contracts

Contracts to Purchase Atkins & Ponder Properties for a New Central High School

Cost to Rebuild Current Central Site

Cost Estimation from BLDD Architects

Examination of Existing Central Site

As part of the site selection process and to address questions received from members of the community, a series of conceptual drawings were put together by BLDD Architects to assess the feasibility of expanding Central High School on its current site. Options A & B contained in the document below show an expanded school on the current site with limited on-site amenities. These concepts do not meet the basic site acreage needs to deliver a comprehensive educational program for 1,700 students. The factors considered in this process can be viewed here. Rather than invest in a facility that will constrain the educational program to lesser quality, only Option C is reasonably large enough to facilitate the full educational program for 1,700 students. However, t​he cost of acquiring the 70+ properties surrounding the existing Central High School to make this plan a reality would be substantial and many residents would become displaced as a result. District leaders have asserted that every dollar spent on site acquisition are dollars that cannot be spent on educational programming at Central, Centennial, or Dr. Howard. For this reason, the District and community have spent more than 8 years looking for other options and sites. 

Concept Images from BLDD Architects

Student Transportation Survey

Results of Student Transportation Survey - Survey results are in response to the question, “On most days, which of the following is the most common way you get to and from school?”

Faculty and Staff Survey

Results From Faculty & Staff Survey on New Central High School Site 

Transportation and Traffic Impact

Regional Planning Commission Presentation - August 2013

Regional Planning Commission Presentation – December 2013

Regional Planning Commission Presentation  April 2014

Regional Planning Commission Presentation - June 2014

Regional Planning Commission Traffic Impact Study - Spalding Park Location

Regional Planning Commission Traffic Impact Analysis - Interstate Drive Location

Economic Impact

Economic Impact Analysis Introductory Presentation – June 30, 2014

Possible Site Layouts

Possible Site Layout for Spalding Park Site (page 12)

Possible Site Layout Interstate Drive Site (page 13)

SITE-RELATED QUESTIONS FROM OUR FAQS

Why wasn't the Country Fair Site selected? 

Country Fair was a site given strong consideration by our District and many in the community.  The selection process utilized by the DLR/Gorski Reifsteck/Berns Clancy team determined that the Country Fair site would not meet student learning requirements or be cost effective for the District and the Unit 4 Community.  Here is an outline of factors compiled by the team that negatively impacted the Country Fair site: 

  • The available site area is less than the 47 net acres required by the overall facility program.  According to a legal survey prepared by Berns Clancy on June 26, 2013, the Country Fair property consists of 32.39 acres (gross).  There are other adjacent properties at the northwest and southwest corners of the Country Fair “block” that could add an estimated 5.87 acres.  In all, it appears the entire Country Fair block could total approximately 38.26 gross acres at a maximum. A site of this size does not lend itself to a typical high school building solution (3 floors or less) and would require extraordinary design measures with placement of outdoor program elements on the rooftop and a multistory parking garage.  Even with those measures it is likely that additional program reductions would be required. 
  • The site itself is not expandable beyond the above survey description of 38.26 acres, hampering future projected growth.  The site constraints would not allow for future expansion and student population growth, putting the District back into its current high school situation in another 20-30 years. 
  • Ameren Illinois informed the District that upgrades/reinforcement of their utilities would be required.  Electrical service would require significant upgrades while natural gas would require lesser, but not insignificant, upgrades. 
  • Additional traffic control and traffic access changes would be required. This work is complicated by the fact that, in this location, both Springfield Avenue and Mattis Avenue are state highways under the jurisdiction of the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT), not the city.  Access to the site is limited by the I-72 exit. Additionally, turns from I-72/University would not be permitted into the site.  
  • It is our understanding the Country Fair property is not for sale.  The negotiation process would likely be lengthy.  It is also our opinion that purchase of the property would be expensive and may include purchase of leases for many tenants and businesses on that site. 
  • This site has significant, additional costs for demolition of existing buildings.  Due to the age of these buildings, there is a likelihood that hazardous materials would be uncovered and require abatement and or remediation prior to demolition.  Potential underground tank removal (and possible contamination) as well as demolition of the bank vault would add to the demolition and site preparation costs. 
  • To offset the loss of sales taxes from the existing commercial site, the city is considering establishing a tax increment financing district over a larger area extending several blocks north and south along Mattis Avenue.  It is unclear at this point what impacts this could have on the school site. 
  • The Mass Transit District would require space on site for a bus transfer area, not calculated within the net acreage, therefore adding further constraints to an already undersized site for the planned use. 
  • Storm water detention would have to be underground, adding to construction costs. 
  • Land acquisition costs are estimated to be $11,000,000 and between $3,000,000-$4,000,000 or more for demolitions and hazardous material abatement. 

Why can't Dodds Park or West Side Park be used for the new high school? 

The School District has previously asked for the Park District’s consideration of Dodds Park for a new Central High School. The Park District requested that the School District examine Spalding Park for its ability to support the needs of a new high school first before entertaining a conversation on other park land.

I've heard the Board of Education investigated the possibility of building the new high school at Spalding Park after purchasing the site on Interstate Drive. Why did the Board decide not to move forward with the Spalding Park site? 

Following a comprehensive search for the school site that included more than 18 available properties, the Board purchased the 80-acre site for $3.2 million in January 2014. In April 2014, the Park District Board of Commissioners brought forward the possibility of Spalding Park, which was previously unavailable for the School District to consider. After fully investigating possibilities at Spalding Park, the School Board concluded that it would not move forward in seeking to acquire that site for the new school due to its limitations, which included the site size, significant additional costs related to land acquisition and construction, logistical challenges of site acquisition, impact on Franklin Middle School, parking, ability to expand the school in the future, and the impact on residents of the Spalding Park neighborhood, among others.