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Families get look at brighter Johns Hill neighborhood future
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Families get look at brighter Johns Hill neighborhood future

Howard Buffett memo

A March 3 letter from The Howard G. Buffett Foundation to Decatur City Manager Scot Wrighton is shown. The organization wants to fund rehab of the Johns Hill area east of downtown Decatur. Read the full letter at

DECATUR — Decatur residents in the Johns Hill neighborhood got a glimpse of a brighter future Wednesday evening, and had the chance to ask questions about it and suggest some improvements of their own.  

“I would love to see it all get fixed up and look nice,” said Rosemary Manning, 73. “And for the ones who are not going to take care of their property, I want to see them out, get them out. I moved here from Chicago 30 years ago and I would like to see the neighborhood back where it used to be, and it used to be gorgeous.” 

Buffett_Howard 2 01.14.20.JPG

Howard Buffett, chairman and CEO of the Howard G. Buffett Foundation. 

She was speaking after visiting an open house Wednesday for the Johns Hill Neighborhood Revitalization Project. 

This is an ambitious city council-backed improvement program, launched with a $1.2 million grant from the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, to overhaul and improve a 24-square-block area bounded by South Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and East Wood, East Cantrell and South Jasper streets. 

The project will be split into three phases starting with the acquisition and demolition of abandoned homes and a general clean-up effort, already underway. That will be followed by Phase 2 improvements to streets, curbs, gutters, sidewalks, street lighting, alleys and landscaping. Phase 3, perhaps the most ambitious, could involve building new moderate income housing along with rehabilitation of existing properties and other improvements.  

The Decatur school board has voted to support the project and said it fits in well with the construction of a new Johns Hill Magnet School already underway that promises to serve as a glittering centerpiece of community activities. 

Watch now: Is Johns Hill school considered historic? $21,000 spent to find out

Decatur City Manager Scot Wrighton, who was present at Wednesday’s open house, said he met with Buffett Foundation representatives earlier in the day to discuss Phase 2 funding, which is still being worked out. 

He said the foundation had shown a strong commitment to the project but no one knows yet the costs and timing for Phase 3. “We need to make more progress on Phase 1 and Phase 2 before we really know what the scope of Phase 3 is going to be,” Wrighton added. 

One of the purposes of Wednesday’s open house was to fine tune the whole project with more input from community members, who were invited to fill out a “Johns Hill Informational Survey” with suggestions for community upgrades. 

Wrighton said the Johns Hill effort was a vast learning experience that will create a template to be used as a guide for future urban renewal projects. 


From the archives: Historical photos of Central Park, Decatur's front yard


Contact Tony Reid at (217) 421-7977. Follow him on Twitter: @TonyJReid


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