CHAMPAIGN — Developers are testing the soil under a parking lot where a hotel is to be built in downtown Champaign.
With the developers hoping to begin work this summer, they've fenced off the property at 401 N. Neil St., C, which former Illini Doug Altenberger plans to turn into an Aloft hotel by Marriott.
"People were parking in there," said Rob Kowalski, the city's assistant planning and development director. "He intends to start excavating and determining the status of what's underground, in terms of the suitability of the building, whether they can have a basement or not, that kind of thing."
Altenberger hasn't filed building plans with the city yet, Kowalski said, and no permits have been issued.
Altenberger did not respond to a phone call seeking an update on the project.
But Kowalski said he suspects "we'll see a building permit soon."
The ground has already been tested for contamination, he said, but "there was never a gas station or dry cleaner" there that would make them suspect ground contamination.
He said the issue now is whether the ground is stable and can support a hotel with an expected 120 rooms and a rooftop bar.
"There was a hotel there for nearly a 100 years, and it was torn down in the late '60s," Kowalski said.
When it was torn down, they suspect the building "was pushed into the ground," Kowalski said, "which was a common way of demolishing buildings back then."
Since then, it's been a parking lot, but Kowalski said there's questions about what condition the ground underneath that lot is in.
The hotel was constructed in the 1850s as the Neil House. It was later renamed the Olive House, according to the Champaign History website maintained by T.J. Blakeman, the president of the Champaign County History Museum.
The hotel was destroyed in a fire but rebuilt in the 1890s as the Beardsley Hotel. It was later named the Tilden-Hall.
It was torn down in 1967.