Council to hear plan for media building

Council to hear plan for media building

CHAMPAIGN – Illini Media Co., the nonprofit corporation that owns the Daily Illini and WPGU-FM, wants to build a new four-story headquarters in the heart of Campustown.

But it will need the cooperation of the Champaign City Council to proceed with those plans.

The city council will consider Tuesday, at its 7 p.m. study session, a proposal to authorize city staff to enter into negotiations to sell Lot I, a city-owned, 26-space parking lot at 510 E. Green St., to Illini Media.

The permit parking lot is located just west of the bar and restaurant, Legends.

Mary Cory, publisher and general manager of Illini Media, said the corporation currently is spread among three locations:

– The Daily Illini and another publication, Buzz, are housed at 57 E. Green St.

– WPGU-FM radio station is located in rental quarters at 24 E. Green St.

– The Illio yearbook is housed in rented space at the University YMCA on Wright Street.

At the new location, all of the Illini Media businesses would be centralized at a location closer to campus, said Mary Cory, Illini Media publisher and general manager.

"The reason we're trying to do this is to get back on campus," said Cory. "Our current location is not the best location for the convenience of our students and coverage of campus."

A centralized location would also offer University of Illinois students a chance to get both print journalism and broadcast experience, she said. The company employs over 300 students.

Illini Media envisions a four-story, 32,000-square-foot building with an interactive, on-street WPGU studio.

"It will be like WGN (radio) studio in Chicago," said Cory. "It will be very fun, a fun pedestrian thing."

With the new facility, more performances by live bands and panel discussions would be possible, she added.

Cory said design plans for the building are tentative at this point. But if the city sells the lot, construction could begin within six months and be finished by summer 2005, she said. The estimated cost of the building is $3.5 million.

According to a city memo, the parking lot is typically rented to owners and employees of nearby businesses. The lot is impractical, the memo said, because users must turn off of and onto congested Green Street to gain access to the lot. Trucks making deliveries to Legends also cause congestion in the parking lot.

The parking customers who currently use Lot I could be relocated to the nearby Lot J, which has additional parking capacity, the memo states.

Council members will have to consider whether to negotiate only with Illini Media, or whether it would be fairer to seek proposals for the lot from other developers, the memo said.

You can reach Mike Monson at (217) 351-5370 or via e-mail at mmonson@news-gazette.com.

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