Filling in the gaps in southwest Champaign

Filling in the gaps in southwest Champaign

CHAMPAIGN — For a long time, First Christian Church was one of the only buildings at the intersection of Curtis and Staley roads.

In the next couple years, it will be across the street from four large health care-related buildings, two mixed-use buildings and an 80-room hotel.

"It's been a long time coming. We were out here by ourselves for a long time," said Jerry Hopkins, the church's executive pastor. "It's great to have neighbors, and we're looking forward to serving in any way we can."

When it began building its church on the southwest corner around 2003, moving from John Street, First Christian Church was expecting growth in southwest Champaign, Hopkins said.

"I think even then, they knew that development was moving this way," he said. "The elders saw that this was the direction that Champaign was growing."

That was before the Legends development just north of First Christian Church across Curtis Road was proposed in 2006 and before Champaign began developing its first master plan for the Curtis Road-Interstate 57 interchange.

Then the recession hit, and not much happened for years.

"It went into a holding pattern for a while," said Lacey Rains Lowe, a senior planner for the city who's been working on the master plan since 2006.

But in the past couple years, the holding pattern has eased.

In early 2016, Carle Foundation Hospital announced Carle at the Fields, anchored by a 300,000-square-foot office building for 1,400 employees that is scheduled to open early 2018.

And this past week, Carle and Christie Clinic officials ceremoniously broke ground on three more buildings scheduled to open in 2019: 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.

These will be located across from the main Carle at the Fields building on the other side of Fields South Drive, which will be extended from Windsor Road to Curtis Road beginning next year.

It's good news for the Stephens Family YMCA, which is located where Fields South Drive currently ends just south of Windsor, said CEO Mark Johnson.

"It really is going to secure our Y for a long, long time," he said.

The Y has been there since 2012 and has grown from 2,000 members at its previous Church Street location to 12,500 members now.

"I see no downsides," Johnson said. "I think it's an exciting time for this end of town."

Across from the main Carle administration building, two mixed-use commercial buildings and a Hampton Inn & Suites are going to be built.

The hotel is scheduled to open in June 2018, said Steve Horve of Horve Hospitality Management, which is managing the hotel.

"It's coming along good," he said.

They broke ground in July, and "we've had a good summer (of construction) until just the last week," he said.

"It's a major project for Champaign, and we're just happy to be a part of it," he added.

This fall, Green Street Realty is expected to begin construction on the two three-story, mixed-use buildings, which will include retail and office space along with 56 one- and two-bedroom apartments.

Green Street Realty hasn't announced any of its plans for the development and didn't respond to questions this week about its plans.

Besides the buildings, the development will also include a 10,000 square-foot plaza and significant new infrastructure, including detention basins, sidewalks, trees and the extension of Fields South Drive.

"The infrastructure alone is a huge undertaking," Lowe said.

Even as the development on the northwest quadrant of the Curtis Road interchange makes progress, it could be just part one of four.

In the master plan, the future land-use map shows all four quadrants becoming commercial, though nothing has been finalized yet.

"We are certainly talking to property owners within that study area, just to try to negotiate some agreements and see what can be done," Lowe said. "That's a little more long term, but definitely something we're working towards."

With all the activity in southwest Champaign, Hopkins expects it to help First Christian Church grow, especially as more families move to live closer to where they work.

"We're anticipating a lot more growth going forward," he said.