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Open for business

It's been a long haul, but a hole in downtown Champaign has been filled.

A 2008 fire at the Metropolitan Building in downtown Champaign was a tragedy not just for the residents and owners of the property that was destroyed, but the entire downtown community.

The Metropolitan was in the process of being transformed from a downtown eyesore to a magnificent residential and commercial building. The cause of the fire never was determined, but its consequences were devastating not only in terms of what was lost, but progress that was delayed.

Out of the ashes of the Metropolitan, however, has risen a new hotel that opened this week.

The nine-story, 145-room Hyatt Place Hotel opened Tuesday, and downtown promoters hope that it will attract not only new people but additional businesses to serve them.

The opening of the Hyatt is part of the continuing renaissance of the downtown from a one-time business and retail center to office buildings, apartments, bars and restaurants. Between those two different eras, there was a long period of stagnation when the downtown, with some exceptions, seemed more like a ghost town.

But those days are long gone, the latest addition to the commercial activity being Hans Grotelueschen's decision to buy the Metropolitan site as well as some adjoining property and build a hotel.

Downtown residents have watched the progress of the development since it was first proposed three years ago. Now the hotel, in all its glory, is finally up and running. The new and improved Metropolitan would have been a tremendous addition to the downtown, but that dream died hard. Now another has taken its place, one that is most welcome in this economically energetic and vibrant locale.

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