Downtown apartment building proposed

Downtown apartment building proposed

CHAMPAIGN — A five-story apartment building has been proposed for downtown Champaign, with the intent of serving people who want to walk to their downtown jobs.

Michael Markstahler and Janice Juraska plan to build The Quarters on the parking lot across the street from Escobar Restaurant, 6 E. Columbia Ave., C, provided the city council grants waivers for the project.

The building, which would have a price tag of almost $3 million, would have ground-floor parking to serve Escobar patrons during business hours and 32 apartments on the four upper floors.

Markstahler said the building would be a "post-modern interpretation of the Spanish colonial style," inspired by the 19th-century urban mansions of Cuba and other Caribbean nations.

He described Escobar's exterior style as Spanish colonial mercantile and said, "we thought it would be fun and interesting to do a building that complements Escobar and vice versa."

The Quarters would be targeted primarily to people who work at downtown restaurants, bars and banks and who walk to work and don't have cars.

It would offer residents an annual Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District bus pass, as well as membership in the Zipcar program, Markstahler said. Plus, the building would have sheltered, secured accommodations for bicycles.

"We have intentionally tried to create a lifestyle opportunity where cars are not needed," Markstahler said, noting that the city council has a goal of encouraging the use of alternate modes of transportation.

The Quarters would have 24 two-bedroom units and eight one-bedroom units, with monthly rents expected to be in the $500 range for one-bedroom units and in the $1,000 range for two-bedroom units.

Electric utility bills are expected to be low because the exterior walls will be super-insulated, he said.

Markstahler said The Quarters would be the first "ground-up" multi-family project in downtown Champaign in more than 40 years. Located at the southwest corner of Hickory Street and Columbia Avenue, it would have an address of 7 E. Columbia Ave., C.

He and Juraska have two other residential projects nearby: Uptown on Columbia, which is just to the south of The Quarters site, and The Hickory Street Apartments, on the northwest corner of Hickory and Washington streets.

The Champaign City Council is expected to consider parking and open-space waivers to the planned development agreement for The Quarters property on Tuesday. The Champaign Plan Commission has recommended approval.

If the council concurs, Markstahler said, construction could begin immediately, with the project targeted for occupancy by August 2014.

At the Oct. 2 plan commission meeting, architect Andrew Fell, who is developing the property at 515 N. Hickory St., C, and Daniel Wells of Wells & Wells Construction, 612 N. Walnut St., C, said they supported the project, but objected to granting the parking variance.

Another developer, Jeff Mellander, said he also supported the project but wondered whether there's sufficient room in the alley west of The Quarters for vehicles to turn into the building's parking area.

He said a parking entrance from the east, off Hickory Street, might make more sense.

When the planned development agreement was initially approved, Markstahler had planned to put six townhouses on the site, rather than a 32-unit apartment building.

In support of the waivers, city planners told the plan commission there's already a lot of surface parking in the area, and the requirements for open space are geared more to suburban developments than downtown projects.

Markstahler said a renovated boutique hotel in Cuba — the Cubanacan Boutique La Union Hotel in Cienfuegos — influenced the exterior styling of The Quarters.

The apartment building will have 8-foot-tall windows, 12-foot-high ceilings, 8-inch-thick walls between apartments and Juliette balconies off each apartment, he said.

Its lobby will feature two 1871 gas chandeliers from the Masonic Hall that was on the third floor of what was later called the Metropolitan Building.

That building, destroyed by fire in 2008, stood at the southwest corner of Church and Neil streets, where the Hyatt Place Hotel is being built.

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EdRyan wrote on November 01, 2013 at 8:11 am

I'd call Escobar's exterior rehabbed auto repair shop modern.