CHAMPAIGN - Downtown Champaign's newest neighbor, the Volition project, already had star status in the constellation of local building projects.
But the star brightened a few more watts with the announcement Tuesday that the development at One Main Street has grown to a $14.5 million building enclosing 138,000 square feet.
When plans were unveiled in October, the project was on a scale of $10 million and 100,000 square feet on four floors. It is now a full five floors, and with tentative city council approval Tuesday, set to break ground next month.
Formal ratification of the One Main Street development agreement is scheduled for Tuesday.
Not even an Illini basketball game in a Big Ten opener at Minnesota could keep many interested citizens away from the council discussion of the project. Many came wanting assurances that their parking needs would be met.
Mayor Jerry Schweighart said they were fortunate to have that worry.
Twenty years ago, Neil Street was an enclosed pedestrian mall whose main traffic was pigeons, he said.
?I think it's great we're sitting here tonight talking about the need for more parking,? he said.
The city's ability to work with the One Main Street partners, and to accommodate them and others, will be a sign to others that Champaign is flexible and can adapt to the needs of other businesses and developers as well, he said.
The council unanimously endorsed the project, and made it a formal part of the endorsement that the city staff return within 60 days with a concrete plan to address the immediate displacement of parking that will occur as the project breaks ground on the 80-space Lot ?T? at Neil and Main streets.
?We will make every effort to relocate people as close to their businesses and residences as physically possible,? said Craig Rost, the city's deputy director for development.
Council member Michael LaDue, who works in Campustown, said that while the streetscape project there was under way last year, merchants complained to him daily about the disruption of parking. Now that the project is done and the city has made adjustments, the complaints have nearly ceased.
?This project will create discomfort to some who are used to the way it's always been,? LaDue said. ?You have to weigh that against the benefits, against what downtown would be like in five years if we kill this project. It's not a very pretty picture.?
City officials said the speed and deliberation with which they approached this project was a conscious decision based on the opportunity available and the developers' need to move fast or lose the opportunity.
Volition President Mike Kulas said the idea arose from a dinner meeting outdoors at Radio Maria downtown last summer with Jon ?Cody? Sokolski, a Champaign businessman and longtime downtown booster.
?I said how great it would be to be down here, but it'd have to happen fast,? said Kulas, whose business is now in leased space on Fox Drive in south Champaign. ?It's a big credit to Cody that he made it happen.?
Volition will occupy most of the second and third floors of the new building. With some 70 employees now, Kulas said he anticipated continued growth. The company started in 1996 and the number of employees has grown about 30 percent a year since. In 2000, Volition sold to THQ, a publicly traded, California-based video game software company whose corporate overseers wholeheartedly endorse Volition's move to downtown, a ?value-added? location, he said.
It's the place he as well as his employees want to be for its atmosphere, the ability to walk and ride bikes to work, the dining and the entertainment possibilities.
The parties briefly described some of the other features of the project, which now comprises a full five-story building. The fourth and fifth stories will accommodate 23 condominiums, most of which will be two-story townhouse styles, plus some more conventional apartments. The interior courtyard on the fourth floor will contain skylights opening onto the lower floors, and most will have outdoor patio space available on the fifth floor as well.
The first floor will be in retail space, with 3,500 square feet reserved for a restaurant in the northwest corner that will open up to a large outdoor plaza area on the west side. On the east side, the builders plan to use brick pavers to rebuild Fremont Street, with generous landscaping and setbacks to separate Volition from the Stevick Building to the east.
The basement will include 43 parking spaces, mainly for residents of the building.
Sokolski credited city staff members for making the project work under tight deadlines.
?We had arduous, long sessions. They've been tough and generous. We've tried to be tough and generous. They always worked in the public interest. I was impressed by that,? Sokolski said.
?This is really a historic occasion,? added City Manager Steve Carter. ?There are very few times in the history of a city that we have had a chance to act on a project such as this.?
In downtown Champaign, the last time was the Christie Clinic project in the mid-1980s.
?In the recent rebirth of downtown,? Carter added, ?there's nothing that tells us more that we're on the right track than to have a project like this decide to locate here.?
In other business:
Votes on shopping center. The council voted 8-0 to OK two measures, an annexation agreement amendment and final development plan, that will allow work on Village at the Crossing to proceed. Village at the Crossing will be a new 20-acre shopping center at Windsor and Duncan roads, and will include 150,000 square feet of retail space and 50,000 square feet of office space.