UI professor redeveloping vacant sorority house as Chateau Normand

UI professor redeveloping vacant sorority house as Chateau Normand

URBANA — A robust, 1920s French Normandy house near Campustown takes Pierre Moulin back to his European roots.

Moulin, a Midwestern transplant and University of Illinois engineering professor, grew up in Belgium, about 10 miles from the north of France. As a child, he saw castles similar to the former Zeta Tau Alpha sorority house at 1404 S. Lincoln Ave.

Moulin decided one day to check out the asking price for the property, vacant since 2010. He owns several single-family rental homes around campus, but a property of this size was new to him.

"The price was pretty reasonable, and the inside was in troubled condition," Moulin said. "I did a lot of homework, and when I concluded it was doable, I made an offer."

Moulin is now on track to redevelop the house into an 18-unit apartment building called Chateau Normand.

He received green lights this week from the city's plan and historic preservation commissions. If the city council does the same Monday, he can start construction.

On the inside, Moulin wants to completely renovate and make studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments with a modern and comfortable aesthetic. He's allowed to make certain exterior renovations as well, thanks to the historic preservation commission's approval.

"The windows will stay; they're from 1928," Moulin said. "They'll basically be the only old part on the inside."

The house is located near other properties — 1204 S. Lincoln Ave., 611 W. Elm St., and 802 S. Lincoln Ave. — that received residential pushback over redevelopment proposals. Kevin Garcia, a planner with the city, said that wasn't the case this time.

"We haven't heard any neighbor concerns about the project," Garcia said. "I haven't received any negative calls or anything ... there's been very little commentary."

In addition, Garcia said the city held a public information meeting about the project on Sept. 25. Around 15 people attended and he said "the general feeling was positive ... they seemed happy that some sort of reuse is being proposed."

Moulin lives near the house and has been in Champaign-Urbana since 1996, so he's not new to the location or its residents.

"It's a pretty unique area, it's near campus but still a very green area," Moulin said. "It's one of the safest areas from crime in Urbana."

Monday's council vote will be on granting Moulin a planned-unit development approval. If he gets it, the goal is to complete construction and have the house ready to rent by Aug. 1.

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