The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

April 22, 2014

To improve safety

City, DHA target Moore Street for development

The Commercial-News

---- — One city official says Moore Street on the city’s east side is “tainted beyond turning it around.”

“It’s just a catastrophe there. We know that in the first block (of Moore Street) north of Fairchild Street and up against Fair Oaks, those houses have lost any appeal to anyone who doesn’t want any affiliation with the housing complex,” said John Dreher, neighborhood development manager with the city.

With another Moore Street shooting in the city in the last few days, city and Danville Housing Authority officials are waiting for the release of federal funding for security improvements targeting that area.

Greg Hilleary, DHA executive director, said he expects to learn next month about the release of $25,000 earmarked in capital funding the housing authority will receive from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to install a tubular, steel fence along the east side of the Fair Oaks property between the housing complexes and houses along Moore Street. Moore Street runs north to south, east of Fair Oaks, between Fairchild and Voorhees streets.

The new fence will connect to fencing at the northeast corner of the Fair Oaks property.

Hilleary said the fence will measure about 700 linear feet and extend to Fairchild Street. The fence, unlike a chain link fence, would be very difficult to break though.

Curtailing “the flight” of people in the area, such as during a criminal activity, would help the police department, he said.

“I truly think putting a barrier up will make our property more secure and assist the police in apprehension,” Hilleary said. “It will force traffic to Fairchild Street.”

The city also has earmarked $74,000 in Community Development Block Grant funding for DHA/Moore Street containment.

Dreher said HUD is reviewing the city’s CDBG funding spending plan, which includes the Moore Street funding proposal, and city officials expect to hear in the next three weeks or so about the plan’s approval and release of funding.

City officials still are trying to narrow down exactly how the funding regarding Moore Street would be spent.

“It might be for security, acquisition and relocation,” Dreher said of the initial general information in the plan and HUD wanting specific actions the money would be spent on.

According to the city’s Annual Action Plan for 2014-2015 for upcoming CDBG funding to the city from HUD: the city and DHA have been in consultation for some months concerning criminal activity in the area of where the Fair Oaks housing complex abuts residences in the 900 block of Moore Street, immediately to the east of Fair Oaks.

In the area in question, about 10 single-family residences are located with their back yards against the fence to the Fair Oaks complex. During recent years some of these private, market-rate homes have become havens for illegal merchandising and other undesirable activities involving neighbors within Fair Oaks, according to the plan and city officials.

The situation has become so commonly known that the homes on Moore Street now bear a reputation making them undesirable to respectable people, and additionally public housing residents within Fair Oaks no longer want to be located in that area of the complex, the plan continues.

The plan goes on to say: “law enforcement action has been unable to break the cyclical pattern of purveyors of illicit activities being drawn to occupy the Moore Street houses. Law-abiding residents of Moore Street want out, but lack the resources to do so in view of the reputation of their block.”

The DHA has developed plans and is assembling funding for a security fence to include that area of its perimeter with estimates of around $90,000 for completion of a containment that can halt the foot traffic between Fair Oaks and Moore Street.

City Community Development officials propose the dedication of $74,000 in 2014-2015 CDBG funding for planning, security system assistance to DHA, potential acquisitions, relocation of residents and demolitions to eliminate the blighting condition in the 900 block of Moore Street.

Dreher said DHA officials asked the city for funding help for the fence, but city officials have decided CDBG funds would be better spent on addressing some of the housing and other issues on Moore Street itself.

He used for example the scenario of the DHA purchasing a hose (or fence in this case) and the city working to reduce the pressure (addressing Moore Street housing and other issues).

Dreher said there could be an owner-occupant who is stuck in a house on Moore Street because it won’t sell. The city could possibly come in and help with acquisition of the property and relocation of the resident. In this case, market-rate housing on Moore Street can’t co-exist with the public housing complex next door, Dreher added about the reputation and activities occurring there.

“We don’t know how to turn that around,” he said.

Ideally, this summer the city would start analyzing the housing on Moore Street to identify owner-occupied housing, rentals, vacant housing, etc., Dreher said.

“Let’s find out where we stand,” he said about also creating a Geographic Information System (GIS) map.

“My own recommendation is to look for those long-suffering, owner-occupied home owners (and) get them into a better situation,” Dreher said.

Demolitions also could start on vacant and dilapidated structures.

“Clearly our police department is involved in this discussion,” Dreher added.

He said police officers already have told city officials about particular properties that have changed hands or about resident changes and “illegitimate stores.”