Council backs rebates for proposed Black Dog location in Champaign

Council backs rebates for proposed Black Dog location in Champaign

CHAMPAIGN — City council members on Tuesday night OK'd up to $200,000 in tax rebates for the owner of the building that is expected be leased to Black Dog Smoke & Ale House in downtown Champaign.

The tax rebates are meant to assist building owner William Youngerman in a $1.3 million renovation of the 114-year-old Illinois Central Railroad Depot, just off the corner of Market and Chestnut streets. The building needs sprinkler systems, new electrical and plumbing systems, new heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems, a new roof and tuckpointing, said city planner T.J. Blakeman. The owner also plans to making landscaping and lighting improvements in the parking lot.

That will mean the 4,113-square-foot building will essentially be gutted before the restaurant can move in — currently projected for mid-2014 at the earliest.

For the last 40 or so years, the railroad depot has been used for storage — Champaign police had been using it for some time to keep impounded bicycles. Planning and Development Director Bruce Knight called it an exciting opportunity to renovate a building which has not been used for human occupation since 1924 when the passenger station for the railroad moved.

"It's pretty remarkable, if you think about it, trying to put a viable use back into that building," Knight said.

The city will rebate up to $200,000 in sales and food and beverage taxes generated by the restaurant over five years. City council members on Tuesday said they are excited by the project.

"It seems like an incredibly wise use of our resources to reinvest in that area," said council member Paul Faraci.

Some council members added, however, that they would like to start thinking about how to tie in the area east of the railroad tracks into downtown Champaign. Faraci said it could be time for an economic study of North First Street.

"I think it would be a mistake not to have those discussions about North First Street as we tie in to development in this area," Faraci said.

The agreement with depot owner Youngerman is not contingent on any particular tenant occupying the building. If the Black Dog deal falls through, it could still apply to any business that opts to move in and the taxes that business would generate.

City officials have been using tax rebates instead of cash-up-front development incentives lately — the city pays only when the project gets off the ground, and even then, they reimburse only tax revenue that would not exist had the project never launched.

City council members have approved similar — albeit much larger deals — lately with the Hyatt Place hotel under construction at Neil and Main streets and car dealerships being built north of Interstate 74

Blakeman called it "a really critical piece" of development in downtown.

Council member Tom Bruno asked about its roof and wondered if the text would be preserved: "CHAMPAIGN-URBANA, POP. 93,500, 'Fastest Growing Community In Downstate Illinois.'" He said that kind of imagery can become iconic for frequent Amtrak riders, who pass on daily routes across the parking lot.

"I would like to see that preserved — even though it's inaccurate — because of its charm, its quaintness," Bruno said.

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alabaster jones 71 wrote on October 02, 2013 at 2:10 am
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Well, at least it's not several million for a hotel that nobody will stay at..........or for a parking garage that nobody uses.

loopillini wrote on October 02, 2013 at 7:10 am

On the contrary, I think that the Hyatt Place hotel will prove to be one of the busiest hotel properties in Champaign. I'm here for business a minimum of twice monthly and can not wait for it to open. I'm very tired of staying in these nondescript freeway hugging properties that are basically your only option right now.

alabaster jones 71 wrote on October 02, 2013 at 9:10 am
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I have my doubts.  Next to the interstate is the most logical and profitable location for hotels, both in C-U and most everywhere else.  I don't see why people who aren't in town to do business downtown would want to stay there.

I also still don't know, if the hotel actually attracts a bunch of people, where they are supposed to park.  The garage a couple blocks away, where you're charged to park there?  Not that this should be a discouragement to stay at the hotel, but never underestimate people's laziness or stinginess.  It would be nice to actually see the garage more than 20-25% full, though.

Nice Davis wrote on October 02, 2013 at 1:10 pm

The News-Gazette published an article a couple months ago about how the hotel developer is already receiving a bunch of calls from people who are interested in staying at the hotel. This despite the fact that there's not even an active website for the hotel yet. I think your doubts are wildly overblown given the amount of trouble visitors are already going through to put their names on an informal reservations list. Maybe you don't know as much about the "logical and profitable location for hotels" as you think you do?

Actually, this seems pretty likely, given that you appear to be clueless about the fact that the hotel has its own parking garage above the lobby and below the guestrooms. The News-Gazette's has revealed this fact in multiple stories. You could also actually go by the project and see the garage yourself (it's been done for about a month).

Or you could continue to play pretend hotel expert. It's the anonymous internet! Go hog wild! Facts don't matter when there are assumptions to be made!

alabaster jones 71 wrote on October 02, 2013 at 4:10 pm
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Ouch!  More like Mean Davis!

How many of those people who are expressing interest in a room live in town and want to spend a night there for the novelty and check it out?  You don't think there will be open rooms after a few months?

I wasn't aware that making a comment wondering how well the hotel would do meant I was declaring myself an expert.  Thanks for clearing that up for me, I'll keep that in mind in the future.

You do have one valid point......I haven't looked closely at the hotel enough to notice that there was framework for a garage in it.  Also guilty about not reading any of those hotel articles.....I try so hard to read every single News Gazette article published, but sometimes things get in the way, you know?

I remember these same sort of derisive comments towards people who were concerned that the parking garage wasn't going to be as successful as was claimed.  You're not an expert and it's going to be full all the time....so sit back, shut up, and watch it fill to the brim with cars.

So, which is it though.....are you an investor, or do you have a job lined up with up with the hotel?  You seem to be taking it quite personally, so it would make sense if you were one or the other.  If you claim not to be, you should let us know your real name (it's not Nice Davis, is it?  I hope not for your sake) so we can look it up and know for sure.  Like you said, we don't want to be anonymous on the internet, right?

parkmymeterelsewhere wrote on October 02, 2013 at 10:10 am

Charm; quaintness?  What has changed in the relationship between this property owner and the city to allow this??  When a property owner of unlimited means uses a 1/4 million tax dollars to restore their property it should be illegal.  The pop. sign disgusts me as does the landscape around there.   

alabaster jones 71 wrote on October 02, 2013 at 11:10 am
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What's wrong with the sign?

cander252 wrote on October 02, 2013 at 2:10 pm

Just a thought but the people staying at the hotel will probably park in one of the spaces in the parking garage at the hotel since it has its own parking.