URBANA — The Urbana Landmark Hotel will welcome its first group of overnight guests Saturday night, and owner Xiao Jin Yuan is inviting the public to see the renovations he's made.
The hotel is opening in the former Jumer's Castle Lodge on the northwest side of Lincoln Square Village in downtown Urbana.
Initially, only 45 guest rooms on the second floor will be available for overnight stays, with rates starting at $79 a night.
"By the end of March, hopefully we'll be able to open another 50 or 60 rooms, and by the end of June, we hope to have all 128 rooms open," Yuan said.
Eventually, overnight guests will eat breakfast in a sky-lit area just inside the hotel's Race Street entrance.
But until the health department gives the green light to food service, guests will be furnished with individually packaged muffins, yogurt, orange juice or milk, and bottled water, Yuan said.
Rooms are equipped with refrigerators, microwaves, in-room coffee and flat-screen TVs.
The hotel — once known as the Urbana-Lincoln — became known for its European furnishings during its days as Jumer's Castle Lodge. Its ballroom and library became favorites of area residents looking for special places to have dinner.
Many of the hotel's longtime furnishings remain intact in the hotel's lobby, lounge and dining rooms, which have undergone extensive cleaning.
"We tried our best to preserve the characteristics of the building, the historic points," said Yuan, who has spent more than $1 million on renovations so far.
"We'd like people to see that we respect the local culture and are doing everything possible to meet their expectations. We're trying to bring the hotel back to its glorious status," he said.
"Anyone can come in to take a look," he added.
Already, a group of retired professors has asked about using the hotel's ballroom for its meetings, with food prepared by a catering service, Yuan said. The group involves 30 or more people who meet about six times a semester.
In coming months, Yuan said he hopes the wood-floored ballroom will be booked for wedding receptions and other special events.
Yuan has repeatedly emphasized that the hotel will open in stages. He said the hotel's kitchen needs to be renovated before grand meals can be served in the hotel's ballroom and library. Until then, any food served for special events will need to be catered.
The city of Urbana has made commitments that could give Yuan up to $1.4 million for the hotel's renovation.
This weekend's debut of the Urbana Landmark Hotel is considered a "soft opening," Yuan said. "At the end of December or in early January, we'll have a grand opening."
Yuan said a public health inspection of the hotel's Alumni Tap bar is scheduled in January, and when approval is given, he intends to open the bar and begin serving breakfast in the sky-lit breakfast area.
Yuan also hopes to open a karaoke dance club on the hotel's lower level in January or February.