Champaign council documents point to another new high-rise in Campustown

Champaign council documents point to another new high-rise in Campustown

CHAMPAIGN — Yet another high-rise could be coming to Campustown.

A Chicago-based firm called CORE that specializes in college-town developments is planning a 17-story, 175-foot-tall mixed-use project along the east side of Sixth Street where The Clybourne and Firehaus bars are located, according to Champaign City Council documents for tonight's meeting.

"The ground floor would contain commercial uses with upper floor residential. The project site would occupy approximately 260 feet of Sixth Street frontage from Green Street to the south," wrote T.J. Blakeman, the city's senior planner for economic development.

CORE Director of Acquisitions Tom Harrington Jr. declined to comment on the potential development when contacted Monday by The News-Gazette.

It's unclear what this means for The Clybourne and Firehaus, located at 706 and 708 S. Sixth St. The owner of the bars, Scott Cochrane, also declined to comment.

Nita Tanchao, the wife of the owner of HomeTown Pantry at 601 E. Green St., said they'll have to close and aren't sure if or where they'll move. They haven't yet sold their property to CORE but plan to "whenever they are ready."

The city council is voting tonight on two items related to the development and the alley just north of The Clybourne.

The first would allow the city to acquire the alley by eminent domain, since its ownership "has long been in question," Blakeman wrote.

"At some point, the lot was marked on official parcel maps as right-of-way, which is still the case today in County records," Blakeman wrote. "However, no clear title or dedication to the City can be found."

The second would allow the city to make an agreement with CORE to improve the alley at its own cost, including widening it from 10 feet to 20 feet.

"The developer has land options on the parcels to the north and is purchasing the property south of the alley," Blakeman wrote. "The developers have requested a license agreement from the City to grant them access rights to build the structure above and parking below the alley in exchange for the dedication of 10 additional feet of right-of-way to better facilitate the public needs including garbage collection, and public safety access."

Right now, some fire trucks and all garbage trucks can't fit down the alley.

Because of this, "all dumpsters and totes must be manually brought onto Sixth Street for collection and returned at a reasonable hour," Blakeman wrote. "This additional work causes many problems, including their unsightly appearance, smell and leaking material throughout the day when tenants do not move them back promptly."

The alley was paved after the city reached a cost-sharing agreement with property owners in 2006, but it was never widened.

The items are up for a vote today in part because "the developer has land options that expire in the next month," Blakeman wrote. "Failure to approve these Council Bills may negatively impact the developer's property acquisition for the project."

Blakeman said he didn't have any details about the potential project beyond what is in the council documents.

"We do not have plans or a building permit in for the project," he said. "They're still basically contemplating the project and couldn't move forward without having this step clarified."

The property north of the alley was last used by the University of Illinois, but now appears to be vacant.

Council member Clarissa Nickerson Fourman, whose District 1 would include this high-rise, said she was unaware of the development.

"This is the first time I've seen this," she said.

At-large council member Tom Bruno said he'll vote to approve the two measures.

"I think it will be a non-controversial item," he said.

While he declined to comment on this particular potential development, he said: "I think it's always a sign we're doing things right when outside investors wish to spend tens of millions of dollars in our community.

"And the flood-control efforts that we made in Campustown more than 10 years ago now are showing their benefits," Bruno said.