Fields of plenty: Carle's development has southwest Champaign thriving

Fields of plenty: Carle's development has southwest Champaign thriving

CHAMPAIGN — Since employees moved into the Carle at the Fields development in April, the parking lots are full, a new hotel has opened and a day care nearby is filling up.

Across the street from the 300,000-square-foot Health Alliance building, the Hampton Inn opened Sept. 28 and has already experienced a couple sold-out nights.

"It's doing very well. We're very satisfied with the hotel's performance," said Steve Horve, president of Forsyth-based Horve Hospitality Management, the hotel's developer. "You've got salespeople, people in town for meetings, and you have people calling on the University of Illinois, doing business with Carle hospital and Health Alliance."

Next to the 80-room hotel, Green Street Realty has nearly completed two identical buildings that will have retail on the first floor and two floors of apartments.

"A good number of apartments are leased" in the north building, said Green Street Realty owner Chris Saunders.

Health Alliance Connections has opened in the north building, replacing its previous location on West Anthony Drive and serving as a resource for the company's Medicare and individual plan members.

"We're looking forward to early next year when we'll share expanded offerings like cooking classes and other events designed for both wellness and making connections," said Terra Mullins, Health Alliance's community outreach manager.

Green Street Realty's buildings will also include the Mexican restaurant El Toro, Haven Salon & Boutique, which is expected to open early next year, Saunders said, and a Verizon Wireless store.

"We are expecting to have full building occupancy in the south building by the end of the year," Saunders said. "We have multiple leases that are being negotiated that we hope to announce soon."

Green Street Realty is also planning a third and fourth building north and south of the hotel, also with first-floor retail and apartments above.

"It's a wonderful complex out there," Horve said. The buildings are "very attractive. Everything out there is brick, and the quality of the structures exceeds expectations."

North of the retail plaza, Carle and Christie have made significant progress on three large surgery-related buildings.

When they were announced, the 47,000-square-foot Champaign SurgiCenter jointly owned by Carle and Christie, a 70,000-square-foot Christie medical office building and an 80,000-square-foot Carle medical office building were scheduled to open in 2019.

And across Staley Road, the Legends development continues to grow.

The Little Legends Learning Center opened in March, and "We're doing well," said Stephanie Tresslar, its co-director.

"When we first opened, we only had four classrooms. Now we have all nine open," she said. "We can hold 138 (kids), and I believe we're at 118."

Little Legends now has 35 staff, and Tresslar said enrollment increased this fall.

"After summer ended and people went back to work and school started, that's when we saw a big surplus in enrollment," she said. "Carle definitely helped our enrollment."

The Legends development has room for more commercial developments, and Jill Guth, a broker for the sites, said, "Interest has definitely picked up."

Three lots are for sale, while one is off the market, she said.

"We are working with some commercial tenants for a strip center at the entrance (off Staley)," said Bill Peifer, co-owner of Signature Homes. "We are in the preliminary design stage."

He said 10 to 12 homes are being built a year in the Legends development.

"The homes are selling well and we typically have two to three spec homes under construction and available for sale at any time," Peifer said. "The homes are at a price point that is selling well (between $245,000 and $280,000)."

The city planner who's been working on the Curtis Road interchange master plan since 2006, Lacey Rains Lowe, said she's pleased with how it's progressing.

She said it's benefited from community input, which led to some special design standards.

"So things like signage and lighting are all dark-sky compliant," she said. "And related to recreation, it has wonderful trail connections, basins with natural plantings, so they don't just look like holes in the ground and help cleanse the runoff."

And the buildings are required to use materials like brick, stone and wood, she said.

"They've done a really good job with the design and development standards," Lowe said.

She said this development has benefited from decades of planning, beginning with the Illinois Department of Transportation in the 1970s recommending an interchange eventually be added at Interstate 57 and Curtis. That opened in 2008.

"It gave us the opportunity, because there was no development there, to do it right," she said, comparing it to North Neil Street and North Prospect Avenue. "There were a lot of lessons learned from North Prospect and North Neil, in terms of traffic circulation."

With the Curtis Road interchange split up into just a few different parcels of land, Lowe said the city was better able to work with landowners and plan where to put lights and how to handle traffic."I think thus far anyway, it's helped us work with Carle and get some really nice development in that area," she said. "We know this is going to be the southwestern entryway into our community, so we want to make sure that it's done well."

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