BLOOMINGTON — The Jefferson Street Community House, which opened two years ago despite protests from several west-side residents who worried about it bringing a heavy police presence, will close and be sold, officials confirmed Monday.
The house at 828 W. Jefferson St. opened in June 2017 as a joint project among the Bloomington Police Department, Mid Central Community Action and the West Bloomington Housing Collaborative. Community Action acquired and rehabbed the house with Illinois attorney general grant money.
“It’s the nature of the grant that Mid Central Community Action held, and it is no longer available,” said Bloomington Police Chief Clay Wheeler, referring to money for buying and rehabbing houses.
Officials with Community Action were not available Monday for comment.
“Mid Central Community Action is making this decision,” said Bloomington Mayor Tari Renner. “Chief Wheeler received an email from (MCCA Executive Director) Deb White dated May 1 about this and it was designated as spam. So we’re just finding out about this today (Monday) as well.”
"It (White's email) was hung up in his spam email until like May 9," added City Manager Tim Gleason. "Then that was when the chief reached out to Deb and wanted to get together.
"I think she was on vacation, so the news of this actually being sold ... we’re just learning about today (Monday).”
City officials announced plans in December 2016 to lease the property for $1 a month from Community Action, but they received negative feedback from neighbors after it was referred to as a police “substation” by then-Police Chief Brendan Heffner.
The Community House and 12 other homes were acquired using state grant money designed for rehabbing distressed properties. Some of the rehab features were specific to the home — such as additional security cameras — because of the police presence at the house.
Renner said Monday that city officials have not yet decided what to do.
Wheeler said the house had been used by police for its purpose, which was to create a presence in the neighborhood.
“We held some community functions there like Halloween parties and different events over the course of the year,” he said. “Officers would stop by and do reports there, but with body cameras and different things that came up, they had difficulty getting much work done there.”
He added that it did serve its purpose.
“The level of violence has decreased in that neighborhood somewhat,” he said.
Renner said he hopes the effort to build better relationships between the city’s police department and neighbors will continue.
“I certainly hope we would continue our community policing efforts on the west side and begin to expand it to other parts of our community so that there is a much better relationship as we move forward between police officers and neighborhoods,” he said.