Owner readies for opening; renovated building may conjure memories of Jumer's
URBANA — Don't expect all of the Urbana Landmark Hotel to open at once.
The owner, Xiao Jin Yuan, said he intends to open the hotel — formerly known as the Urbana-Lincoln Hotel, Jumer's Castle Lodge and the Historic Lincoln Hotel — in phases.
Yuan, who acquired the building in 2010 and has been renovating it, said he hopes to apply to the city for a certificate of occupancy this week and have a "soft opening" toward the end of this month.
Initially, he intends to operate only 45 guest rooms on the second floor. Those rooms have been furnished with modern accoutrements, rather than the ornate, European-style furniture that once graced Jumer's.
The hotel won't have food service at the outset. Yuan — who goes by "X.J." — said he hopes to begin serving breakfast to guests by year's end in a freshly renovated, sky-lit area just inside the hotel's Race Street entrance.
But former patrons of Jumer's shouldn't expect to enjoy grand meals in the hotel's ballroom or library anytime soon.
Yuan will need to renovate the hotel's kitchen before that happens, and that could be an expensive and time-consuming proposition.
Nevertheless, those with fond memories of Jumer's days will likely be pleasantly surprised to see how much of the Jumer's atmosphere remains — particularly in the hotel's lobby, lounge and dining rooms.
Many of the longtime furnishings remain intact, though some have been moved to new positions. Flowered fabric still lines the walls, and statuary and suits of armor continue to stand at attention.
The cabinet containing the hotel's room-key boxes has been moved to the opposite side of the lobby, where Yuan says it may be used as a wine rack. The antique piano, now in the lounge, may be moved to the ballroom.
Chairs and sofas throughout the place have been power-washed to remove years of dust and dirt.
The carpeting in the lobby — which Yuan described as "very depressing" — has been replaced with 3/4-inch-thick white marble that extends out to the Race Street entrance. Meanwhile, the lift for the physically disabled has been moved from the mall side to the entrance area.
The hotel's grand ballroom has been refurbished to make it suitable for dancing. Yuan has removed the carpeting, exposing hardwood floors that have been sanded and treated with polyurethane.
The ballroom will be available for wedding receptions and special events, he said. But those reserving the room will need to make arrangements for catering, since the hotel's kitchen is not ready for use.
The library, which was also used for dining, has been cleaned up, and Yuan expects it will eventually be used for serving lunch and dinner to overnight guests and the general public.
Down the road, Yuan plans to renovate 83 guest rooms on the hotel's third and fourth floors. Those rooms are still equipped with the old-style European furniture, and if they prove popular, Yuan may keep that theme.
"We'll see how people react," he said.
The first rooms to open — those on the second floor — are equipped with 32-inch flat-screen TVs, microwave ovens, miniature refrigerators and cabinetry with granite tops. All the rooms have electronic locks.
Yuan said rates for the new rooms will start at $79 a night. Most of those rooms have two queen beds.
Guests shouldn't count on the full conference-center experience yet. Yuan hasn't renovated banquet rooms in the conference-center addition yet, and the swimming pool won't be in service this year.
But Yuan does plan to open the lower level of the hotel for a karaoke dance club. He said he hopes to attract adults there on weekends and operate it alcohol-free on weeknights in hopes of drawing younger people.
Downtown Urbana is "half-dead," he said, and one way to help make that part of the city vibrant is to "bring kids here."
The Alumni Tap bar, to the right of the Race Street entrance, won't be open initially, but Yuan said he hopes to work on that — and probably retain its name — after the second-story rooms are open.
"I don't want to destroy the tradition of local people," Yuan said. "I want to respect the community."
Yuan has not decided what to do with the mounted deer and moose head and the stuffed peacocks and pheasants that once lined the walls. He would like to please patrons who associate them with the place, but doesn't want to offend guests who are turned off by them.
He said there will be no smoking in the hotel and he doesn't plan to permit pets.
Yuan said he has spent more than $1 million on renovations so far, including roof replacement, installation of marble floors and the addition of the canopy entrance from Race Street and the adjacent breakfast area. He has also installed drains and sump pumps to stop flooding on the lower level.