Group purchases old Urbana post office

Group purchases old Urbana post office

URBANA – An independent media group has purchased a downtown Urbana landmark and promises to make it available to the public.

The former Urbana post office building at 202 S. Broadway Ave. will be transformed into a community media and arts center by the Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center.

Postal services will remain in the building.

The IMC closed on the building on Thursday in a deal with the federal government for $218,320, according to the Champaign County recorder of deeds office.

The 1914 structure just north of Lincoln Square was replaced by a new facility near the corner of U.S. 150 and Illinois 130 in east Urbana. A decade earlier, in 1986, it had undergone a $1 million renovation.

The solid, brick edifice has three floors, each more than 9,000 square feet, as well as a 6,000-square-foot lobby.

Urbana Alderwoman Danielle Chynoweth, the chief negotiator for the purchase, called it "an excellent deal."

She said it was a win-win negotiation, since the post office gets to stay at its current space for a dollar a year, and the community will be able to use some of the space.

"This is a labor of three years, and it's probably persistence that made it work," the alderwoman said.

The IMC raised $75,000, mostly from small donors, with the building "sight unseen."

Chynoweth said the group will seek to have the building listed on the Illinois Historic Register.

"It has marble kickboards, nickel fixtures in the bathrooms, beautiful woodwork throughout and antique lighting," she said.

There will be two performance rooms, crucial for the group, since Urbana inspectors shut down previous performance space on Main Street.

"The community lacks safe, all-ages, performance space where teens and adults can share a safe, artistic environment," she said. "There's so much space, it's really up to the community what we do. We're going to ask the community what it would like," she said.

The building has been inspected, and the group hopes to be able to use space by this fall for performances.

The move-in date is June 2.

Some tenants will remain to offset mortgage costs, and the media group will seek out other not-for-profit groups.

"Since we are not financially vulnerable, there are so many opportunities," Chynoweth said.

Organizer Mike Lehman said he was pleased the group will be moving into the building about the same time Radio Free Urbana, WRFU 104.5 FM, is scheduled to go on the air.

The building also will house an all-ages performance venue, artist studios and gallery, audio and video production facilities, a resource library and community meeting space, a press release said.

The IMC will provide public access Internet stations and free wireless connectivity in and around the building, according to the release.

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