Demolitions continue at Fair Oaks

Jennifer Bailey|Commercvial-NewsDemolition continues of six Fair Oaks public housing complex buildings on Tuesday. The work began in July and shouldbe finished by the end of this month.

DANVILLE – The open spaces where Fair Oaks residential structures once stood already help the public housing complex seem more open between buildings.

The city is in the process of removing the debris from buildings three and four this week. On Tuesday, workers were loading out debris from the third building. The city has the demolition of buildings five and six left to complete.

“We’re a little behind. I was expecting that,” said Danville Public Works Program Compliance Coordinator Tracy Craft about being one to two days behind.

Craft said they first tackled the two buildings they thought would take the longest to complete due to all the concrete, rebar and brick in them. The first building took 11 days to complete and the second building took seven days to complete, he said.

The third and fourth buildings should take about four to four and a half days each for completion.

The public works department works 10-hour, four-day weeks. They don’t work Fridays and Craft said they can’t take materials to the dump after about 3:30 p.m. because it stops collecting items.

Craft said the demolition of third building started Thursday, and the third and fourth buildings took a lot less time to take down due to the structures being stick-built. They had wooden floors instead of the concrete floors, he said.

The city has had some water pipe, electrical and other issues to deal with during the demolitions, but nothing too significant, he said.

They still hope to finish demolishing the six buildings around the seven-week mark. The goal has been around Aug. 22.

Demolition started July 8 at Fair Oaks. The first building that was torn down was along East Fairchild Street.

The Housing Authority of the City of Danville is paying the city a cost not to exceed $110,000 for the demolitions of the buildings at 940-956 Lewis Lane, 1639-1653 Fairchild Street, 900-918 Wakely Drive, 924-942 Wakely Drive, 901-919 Belton Drive and 922-940 Belton Drive.

There are 57 units being demolished, with the majority of the 130 displaced individuals having moved out of the area.

Ramona Colon who has lived at Fair Oaks three years said it’s sad to see the buildings go.

“It’s sad to see them not rebuilt,” Colon said.

Colon, who also works with the housing authority in overseeing the Fair Oaks laundry facility, said “Fair Oaks is not a bad place." It’s the people who make it great or bad, she added.

She said there are a lot of people who depend on the low-income housing and need a home. There are others, however, who cause trouble.

“A lot of us come from different places,” Colon said.

She said when she first moved here from a shelter in Chicago she made friends with the people in the building next to hers that is being demolished.

She said rumors continue about the next set of buildings to be demolished. Colon said if she receives a Section 8 voucher she will rent a home in Danville with her 18-year-old son. Colon, who also works at Meijer, doesn't want to move away from her job.

She said of her son, he’s the baby of eight and is planning to go to college after finishing Danville High School. She said her son is a good kid, who works at Steak 'n Shake, and doesn’t get involved with the bad aspects at Fair Oaks.

Colon said of the empty spaces to remain after the buildings are torn down at Fair Oaks, she’d like to see more activities for youth such as a soccer or football field. She also heard there could be grills and benches set up for barbecuing in those spaces instead of beside units’ front doors.

“It’d be nice to do something for these kids,” she said. “There really is nothing to do.”

The demolitions of the 1940s and 1950s barrack-style apartments are occurring to reduce density at the city’s largest public housing complex, improve public safety and improve the quality of the HACD’s affordable housing.

Housing authority officials haven’t set another number of units to demolish.

Officials have said the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is not rebuilding public housing, but other tax credit developments continue to be explored here.

The Illinois Housing Development Authority in May denied a HACD tax credit application for $15 million in proposed downtown, mixed-income housing.