Aloft Hotel, by Marriott, now slated to occupy downtown Champaign lot

Aloft Hotel, by Marriott, now slated to occupy downtown Champaign lot

CHAMPAIGN — Plans are still on track to develop an urban-style hotel on a small downtown Champaign lot, but the planned hotel brand has undergone a change.

Developer Doug Altenberger has been working with Marriott International to make the future hotel at 401 N. Neil St. an Aloft Hotel, according to Rob Kowalski, the city's assistant planning and development director.

Earlier plans for the hotel with another developer called for a millennial-focused Hotel Vib by Best Western. Altenberger took over as developer last year.

Marriott describes the Aloft concept as an urban-inspired design.

"Aloft Hotels caters to today's modern traveler who craves jet-setting style and a vibrant social scene at an affordable price," says a description on the chain's website.

Another Marriott property in the area will be easier to market and allow hotel customers more use of their Marriott loyalty rewards, according to Terry Reifsteck, vice president of marketing for Visit Champaign County.

"We have numerous Marriott properties in town," she said. "It's good to keep it in brand."

The hotel site officially changed hands this past December when it was acquired for $275,000. The taxpayer name on the property is a new Hoffman Estates corporation, 401 North Neil Street LLC, managed by Altenberger, a former Illini basketball player, and Toby Block of Scottsdale, Ariz., according to county and state records.

The downtown Champaign lot had been chained off, but there are now some cars being permitted to park there under a private arrangement between the owner and downtown businessman John-Paul Buzard for employee parking until construction begins, according to Kowalski.

Last year, the city believed construction would begin at the start of 2019. Now, Altenberger is working with his general contractor to finish construction plans and expects to be ready to start on the foundation work in the next couple of months, Kowalski said.

Plans still call for a hotel of about 120 rooms, Kowalski said.

"Because the site is pretty small, the amenities will be limited," he said.

He believes Altenberger is still pursuing the option of having a rooftop bar on the hotel, "which could be part of the hotel or even a separate business," Kowalski said.

Kowalski said this project has been a long time coming, but he's optimistic.

"It will be a really nice piece for downtown, and I'm looking forward to Doug getting started on it this spring," he said.

If construction begins in the next couple of months, Kowalski said, it likely won't be completed until next year.

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