Woodford County housing gradually rising

Justin Miller
A home at the corner of East Audubon Hills Drive and Woodland Knolls Road is advertised by Coldwell Banker realty company.

The Metamora and Germantown Hills area is, according to one local resident, a standout location in central Illinois.

“I moved from Peoria eight years ago,” Todd Rice said. “I grew up in Kickapoo and went to Brimfield so I am from a small community. My wife grew up in Germantown Hills and rose through the ranks in the school system here.

“We decided we were ready to move out of Peoria and we looked at the Brimfield-Kickapoo Edwards area and the Metamora-Germantown Hills area.”

Rice said one of the reasons his family decided to plant roots in the area was a monetary one.

“The problem with the Kickapoo-Edwards area was the housing prices there were around $120,000,” Rice said. “They were nice size houses but then you’d have to spend another $40-50,000 to update them. Or you can go to the $220,000-plus houses, which were newer. We didn’t want that, that’s out of our budget.”

Besides the cheaper and more ready-to-move-in housing options, the reputation and prestige of the school districts attracted the Rice family.

“We then started to focus over in this area and one of the main reasons was the school districts,” Rice said. “They are the tops in the area. Everything there is strong. Also, bar none, the parents buy into what they do there.”

Michelle Largent, a local realtor, said sales in the area of homes have been promising.

“The majority of sales in 2012 have been in the $100,000 to $200,000 range,” Largent said. “That was 45 percent of our sales. We have had more sales in the $200,000 to $300,000 range than the under $100,000 range too, which is excellent.”

From the get-go, Rice said he found what makes the community strong.

“When we bought our house, four other people bid on it,” Rice said. “How we got our house was that we actually wrote the homeowner a letter saying why we wanted the house and how we envisioned our family growing up in that house.

“That’s what actually got us the house because other people outbid us. They gave it to us because of the letter. That goes to speak of why the community is so good, it’s not always about the high and mighty dollar.”

After settling in the area, Rice’s four kids have made their way through the local schools.

“They have done well and thrived in the schools,” Rice said. “They have friends in the schools and the activities that Germantown Hills and Metamora offer are top notch.”

Besides the activities, Rice said what sets the school district apart is the personal touch given to Rice’s four children.

“My one son, the sixth-grader (Garrett), is what they call a heart kid. He was born with a major heart defect,” Rice said. “He has been through three open heart surgeries. There are other kids at Germantown Hills who have heart conditions.

“The school has been more than responsive to anything that we have needed and that’s a positive. When you have a child who has been through three open heart surgeries and died two or three times in a room at birth and then to have him not feel any different than any of the other kids at school, that’s a positive. That’s phenomenal.”

While Rice, who is running for trustee, said the area is a strong destination, there is more work to be done and that work begins with the Village Board.

“I think part of the negativity comes from the current board that we have in now,” Rice said. “What are they driving towards? What is their goal? What is their vision? Where do they want to take Germantown Hills? They can say they have a vision all they want, they can say they have a goal all they want but it’s not online.

“The community has to help you get there. If they have no idea what (the goal) is, how are they going to help you get there?”

Rice said one of the next steps the area must take is to build up the local commerce.

“Having housing is great but you need businesses there to support them too,” Rice said. “We lost the grocery store two to three years ago and what have we done? We have sent 10 letters to grocery store chains. We have had four economic development committee meetings in three-and-a-half years.

“Is that really working for your constituents? Is that really trying to make it a better community?”