Urbana council supportive of downtown proposal

URBANA — Urbana City Council members expressed interest Monday night in supporting a multi-use downtown development that eventually could cost as much as $84 million.

The council voted 5-0 to ask its legal staff to draw up a document verifying that Champaign developer Gary Olsen is representing the city in marketing his proposed Metro Centre project on Vine Street, one block north of the Urbana City Building.

Olsen spent nearly two hours outlining the project which includes retail, office and residential in two separate buildings, totaling about 350,000 square feet.

The plan for the development, which Olsen said he was revising as late as 5:30 p.m. Monday, now is proposed to have two levels of underground parking instead of one, with 364 spaces. His options showed both a six- and a seven-story main building facing Vine Street.

Olsen said he planned to have four levels of office space, and hoped to market the building to attorneys because of its proximity to the federal and county courthouses.

"You would be able to be very green and walk to work every day," he said.

The two upper floors would include 28 condominiums with 14 on each floor, plus eight townhouses in a smaller building on the east side of the development.

Council members were supportive of the plan.

"I like the idea of going big with this," said Alderman Eric Jakobsson. "I don't think there's a big risk of overdeveloping. Even in this bad economy we're growing in Urbana and we can support this."

Alderman Charlie Smyth called the project "very ambitious" and added, "I appreciate that you're showing some imagination. You're moving forward in spite of the economy."

Olsen said he was optimistic about an improving economy to help develop the project.

"I think the United States will slowly get out of this," he said. "That's what I'm counting on."

Olsen said another project he has proposed for Urbana — a 48-unit condominium development on the site of the old Windsor Swim Club on Windsor Road — is "right on schedule."

He said he hopes to bring final plans for the development to Urbana's plan commission later this year, adding that no units would be built until they are sold.

"Hopefully it will happen in the next three to five years," Olsen said of the Windsor project.

Council members Brandon Bowersox and Heather Stevenson were absent.

The council also approved 5-0 the final design proposal for landscape and streetscape improvements along the Boneyard Creek from Griggs Street to Broadway Avenue. According to staff estimates, the capital improvements would cost an estimated $9.2 million.

Before the meeting, the council observed a moment of silence for former Alderman Arthur Zangerl, who died last Friday at the age of 59. He had served one term on the city council.

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David Illinois wrote on December 20, 2011 at 5:12 am

76 new condos in Urbana?  Hope they sell better than M2!

spangwurfelt wrote on December 20, 2011 at 7:12 am

Hopefully they won't be so ridiculously, stratosperically, self-defeatingly over-priced as M2.

ronaldo wrote on December 20, 2011 at 8:12 am

"You would be able to be very green and walk to work every day," he said.

Walking from one area of your employment to another isn't "green" - it's what employees do.  It's like walking from your office to the conference room.  Sorry, not green, particularly when those same attorneys are driving from the outer extremes of the city to get to their daily grind.  And downtown is already booming with attorneys, so they're already in close proximity and greening it up.  Not that your massive development won't be nice, but unless those attorneys are living on the 5th & 6th floors, they're not walking to work.

 

parkmymeterelsewhere wrote on December 20, 2011 at 10:12 am

I hope the existing businesses within the proposed site put a stop to this nonsense; the existing parking deck doesn't work--why build another one?

Marty wrote on December 21, 2011 at 11:12 am

Who's going to foot the bill when this fails?

 

"You would be able to be very green and walk to work every day," he said.

Yeah, because they will live in their offices.