Midtown Crossing developer details his wish list for complex

Midtown Crossing developer details his wish list for complex

CHAMPAIGN — By this time next year, Midtown could have a new brewery, distillery and restaurant.

Those, along with 10 upscale apartments, are all part of bar owner Scott Cochrane's plans for his Midtown Crossing project at Chester and Water streets.

"Midtown's going to have growth," Cochrane said. "I've always loved Chester Street, that two-block area, and then the opportunity came up."

In the past two years, he and his companies have bought three of the four properties at that intersection for a combined $1.57 million.

The southeast corner, where the former Chester Street Bar was located, is expected to be the first of the three to open to the public, Cochrane said.

He wants to make that a brewery with a taproom and five apartments, and he's planning to open the brewery this year.

"I hope to have that up and running before the end of the year," Cochrane said. "The equipment's been ordered. A brewmaster has been hired."

The taproom will have a "speakeasy feel" with a secret entrance, Cochrane said.

"I haven't decided if it will be a lawyer's office or a private detective's," he said. "It will pass fire codes and all."

After buying the former bar in 2017, Cochrane had hoped to open a bar/restaurant there before the end of last year.

But a fire in October set that back.

"It did quite extensive damage, and we're getting ready to have it dry-ice blasted to get the smell out," Cochrane said. "It needed a lot of work."

Across Chester Street in the Avenue Building on the northeast corner of the intersection, Cochrane wants to build five "turn-of-the-century" apartments on the second floor and make the first floor a restaurant/bar.

On Tuesday, the Champaign City Council approved $300,000 in redevelopment grants to reimburse Cochrane for his $1.67 million plan to renovate the building.

"I don't know the concept yet" of the restaurant, said Cochrane, who also owns the Campustown bars Red Lion, Firehaus and the Clybourne.

While The Avenue Building, which has been vacant for at least 30 years, needs new roofs, new floors, mold removal and other repairs, Cochrane hopes to have it ready by next summer.

"The Avenue, we'll start on pretty soon," he said.

Across Water Street in the former Bush Brothers Building, Cochrane wants to create a micro-distillery with a restaurant on the first floor and event space on the second.

"Whether it will be a distillery or not, that's up in the air. I'm in contact with the state," he said. But "that's the intention."

That building has an old wood-beam ceiling on the second floor, and Cochrane wants to put raw timber trusses on the first floor.

"The north end originally had arched windows. Those will come back on the first floor," Cochrane said.

There's also a car elevator that Cochrane wants to use for the restaurant's entryway.

Between the Bush Brothers and Avenue buildings, Cochrane is working with the city to convert that block of Water Street into an outdoor dining and gathering space.

"I want the plaza open for next spring," he said. "The distillery building will be after the brewery's done, and we hope to have that operational by next summer."

The transformation will look something like this:

While Cochrane continues to think Campustown will be the center of attention, he said Midtown "was due for development."

"It's going to take some time," he said. "But it's a natural transition."

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