Next Research Park building may include apartments

Next Research Park building may include apartments

CHAMPAIGN — Living quarters may be coming to the University of Illinois Research Park.

Developer Peter Fox of Fox/Atkins Development said he's considering including some top-floor apartments in the next office building that goes up in the research park.

That building will likely be located south of the I Hotel and Conference Center and north of the new Yahoo building under construction on South First Street.

Fox, who said there's a "50/50" chance of going ahead with the residential idea, envisions eight to 10 rental units atop the building, each of which might lease for $2,000 a month.

The units would likely be 1,500-square-foot, two-bedroom apartments with contemporary, European-style furnishings and outdoor decks, he said. The building itself would probably be at least three stories tall.

Fox said the apartments could appeal to people who work in the research park or to new faculty members and administrators who need temporary lodging while preparing to buy or build a home in the community. The proximity to the heart of campus would be a draw, he said.

People relocating to Champaign-Urbana can find suitable quarters in downtown Champaign and at Baytowne in north Champaign, Fox said, but there aren't many options close to campus that are similar to what he envisions.

Plus, the units could be an alternative for extended-stay guests who now stay at the I Hotel. Some services that hotel guests enjoy, such as maid service and in-house laundry service, could be extended to apartment residents, he said.

Research parks on other campuses are starting to include residential components, Fox said.

"You're seeing that at Research Triangle Park (in North Carolina)," he said, adding that many people want to "live, work and play" in the same area.

Fox is following that formula himself as he prepares to add sleeping quarters for him and his wife, Kim, at the Fox Development Corp. offices at 1909 Fox Drive, C.

The Foxes recently agreed to sell their home on Armory Street in Champaign, and Fox said he plans to continue to divide his time between Illinois and North Carolina, where Fox owns several Jimmy John's restaurants and where their children go to college.

Fox said ground-breaking for the new building in the research park could occur as soon as this fall. He said he hadn't determined yet whether top-floor residents and the employees who work on lower floors would share the same elevator or whether separate elevators would serve each group.

Peter Fox on ...

— The I Hotel: Fox said there's room to expand the I Hotel and Conference Center to the south, potentially doubling the room count. But he said he likes the idea of sticking with 126 rooms.

— Retail in the research park: A proposed retail component to the research park near the corner of First Street and Windsor Road isn't likely to proceed any time soon, given the wealth of retail development along South Neil Street, including the Carriage Center redevelopment.

— Durack in-house: Gary Durack, the founder and former CEO of iCyt (now Sony Biotechnology), is working from Fox's offices to identify promising research on campus and find ways to finance commercial development of those ideas.

— More subs: Fox, who recently said he would like to expand his Jimmy John's restaurants in North Carolina and South Carolina from 25 to 100, said he believes the Raleigh-Durham, N.C., and Charlotte areas could each accommodate an additional 20 locations. He already has 12 in Raleigh-Durham and four in Charlotte. Adding restaurants in those metro areas would shorten delivery times, he said.

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