DS Volition seeking city incentives to remodel, expand

CHAMPAIGN — Video game developer DS Volition is seeking about $200,000 in incentives from the city of Champaign so the company can remodel its downtown offices and expand by as many as 100 employees.

Without the incentives, the company said it may have to consider other locations outside downtown Champaign because the remodeling would be cost-prohibitive.

The Champaign City Council is scheduled to consider the request at its study session Tuesday. The meeting begins at 7 p.m. in the council chambers of the Champaign City Building, 102 N. Neil St., C.

City staff is recommending the city provide a $3-a-square-foot incentive for any new high-technology space DS Volition occupies, up to a maximum of $150,000. Yahoo recently received a similar incentive when it expanded to new quarters in the University of Illinois Research Park.

Staff is also proposing that the city pay DS Volition $1,000 for each new employee it adds and that parking policy be changed so that companies leasing more than 100 parking spaces from the city will get a 10 percent discount. Currently, the maximum discount of 6 percent goes to companies leasing more than 50 spaces.

Volition currently employs more than 200 employees and occupies 47,000 square feet on the second and third floors of One Main Plaza at the northeast corner of Neil and Main streets.

The studio — best known for its "Saints Row" series of video games — was acquired last year by a German company, Koch Media.

According to a council memo, DS Volition's lease at One Main is up for renewal at the end of May. The studio moved there in 2004.

"The German company that owns them has indicated that they should select the most cost-effective location, but ... DS Volition understands that their employees prefer downtown and that they have a substantial economic impact on the many small locally owned businesses near them," the memo from staff said.

"Because of this, they are requesting that the city consider helping level the playing field between other locations and staying downtown," it added.

Volition said it needs to build out its existing space as a result of changes in how employees work together in the design process. The company has also outgrown its server room, and improving server capacity is expected to be the most expensive part of the build-out.

"With these improvements completed, the company believes there is a strong potential to grow by as many as 100 new employees, and that these would be jobs consistent with their current $81,000-a-year average salary," the staff said in its memo to council.

A survey of DS Volition employees found they accounted for 30,000 visits to downtown restaurants and retail stores over the last year, spending about $375,000.

That would result in about $1,874 in food-and-beverage tax revenues and $5,625 in home-rule sales tax revenues each year.

Volition said the studio has been working with One Main Development, which owns One Main Plaza, on architectural drawings.

"One Main Plaza ownership also expects to make a financial investment in this remodel, but is not prepared to fund the entire project," the company stated.

"It would be a big deal for One Main if Volition moves out, and it would be a big deal for downtown," said Rebecca Motley, One Main's vice president of administration and special projects. "Volition is of huge economic importance to downtown."

She said downtown business owners should be made aware of the situation and make their opinions known to the council.

One Main benefits financially from having DS Volition as a tenant, Motley said, but the presence of Volition also supports other tenants and "adds to the vitality of the downtown area."

"A lot of its employees are making a good salary, and they are a big part of the customer base downtown," she said.

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787 wrote on April 19, 2014 at 10:04 am

And where do all of these corporate hand outs end?

If Volition can't afford to stay downtown, then they need to move somewhere they can afford to be.  There's plenty of cheaper space located elsewhere in the city.  Move out to Interstate Research Park

Why exactly is this the City of Champaign's problem?  They have the library to support, who can't afford the building that they built.

Lance Dixon wrote on April 19, 2014 at 2:04 pm

Just Say No to handing out public funds to profitable corporations! I believe the threat to move is a hollow threat. Volition is just joining the trend of robbing public coffers at (virtual) gunpoint. This will never stop if we continue to pass out free money. It's a great location and none of them want to move. If they in fact do leave, others will move in and spend just as much downtown.

Let's stop acting desperate! We need to act like "hey, we don't want you to leave, but this is an awesome location so it won't be empty long! And we prefer companies who don't beg for handouts."

hamburgersocks wrote on April 22, 2014 at 7:04 pm

M2 - Half empty since it was built, businesses leaving in the meantime.

Exile on Main (same building as Volition) - Moving due to prohibitive operating cost.

CV Lloyd's - Moving because they can't sell guitars.

Dandelion - Moving because... I don't know why.

Lincoln Building - Empty for years.

Whole strip of abandoned buildings north of One Main as well. Businesses come and go. Anything that's been downtown for ten years is worth keeping there... except the beggars. Maybe they're driving people away.

The money going to the company is less than the amount employees spend downtown in a year. Think of it as an indirect handout for local business owners.