CHAMPAIGN – A two-year renovation of the former Whiteline Laundry building is approaching completion, and Janet Bubin has 11 new condominiums to show for it.
Each is distinct in layout and features, carved from the second story of a building that once served as a commercial laundry and later was home to JBJ Fine Gifts.
There's still work to be done on the first floor of the building at 723 S. Neil St., C, which Bubin and her husband, Barry, hope to lease to two restaurants.
But she's ready to show and sell the 11 condos, which range from 863 to 1,400 square feet. Bubin said she hasn't decided how much they'll ask, but she's guessing it may be in the $120,000 to $220,000 range.
Bubin worked with architect Neil Strack of Architectural Expressions and Marty Wedig of New Life Construction to bring new use to the 1920s-era building while preserving its architectural features.
Probably the most distinctive feature is the rolling firewall door in Unit 1, which when closed seals off a bedroom. Two similar doors are mounted as decorations in the main hallway, which has a contemporary stained-glass window at one end.
Another distinguishing feature: the exposed steel trusses visible in some condominiums and one of the hallways. Bubin said the trusses extending over the hall remind her of the Golden Gate Bridge.
"It looks like you're going under the bridge," she said.
The condominiums boast exposed brick walls and stained concrete floors. Solar tubes bring in natural light from above, and most units have large windows.
Seven condominiums have two bedrooms, one has three bedrooms and the other three are one-bedroom units. Three condos are split-level, with overlooks into the main living space. All are equipped with washers, dryers, refrigerators, ovens, microwaves and dishwashers.
Common features include high wood ceilings, maple cabinets and granite countertops in the kitchens and rolling panel doors that hide washers and dryers.
One unit features original hooks used in the commercial laundry. Another has hand-painted glass pendant lighting. Several have bathroom floors painted with a textured sponge, then sealed.
Sandblasting through 10 layers of paint was "the most time-consuming job we had," Bubin said. Many walls are a foot thick.
Bubin called Wedig "the backbone of the project from the get-go."
Wedig said he worked on the project for about 14 months. The most challenging aspect, he said, was dealing with changes along the way, which included adding support for the existing roof.
Wedig said he particularly likes units 1 and 11 for their ultra-high ceilings and exposed brick work and units 4 and 6 for their lofts and exposed beams.
As for his crew, "everybody really likes it and would like to live here," Wedig said. "Janet is a joy to work with. It's been a privilege to work with her."
Strack said the multilevel condos on the south side – where upper levels once served as elevated offices – were challenging to design, but he felt the results were "aesthetically pleasing and comfortable."
What does he like most about the project? "The quality of old construction in the brick, the steel, the concrete being exposed and personified," he said.
Strack admires the visibility of the steel-bow trusses and says the brighter colors chosen for the condos worked well.
Other features he likes: the sheer volume of space in the units, thanks to high ceilings; and the abundance of natural light, courtesy of solar tubes in the bathrooms and kitchens.
Residents will enter the condominiums from a south entrance on William Street. Free parking is available on a lot west of the building.
Bubin said she thinks the Whiteline condos will appeal to professional couples and singles.
She said she doesn't expect to recover everything she and her husband put into the project.
In a 2007 interview, she said she expected the renovation would cost $3 million to $4 million. But several elements changed after plans were announced that year.
At the time, she was planning a natural foods store and teahouse for the first floor. She later decided to lease the space, most likely for restaurants. There are also small spaces on the Neil Street side suitable for offices.
Also at the outset, Bubin expected some condominiums would have private patios and others would share a common patio. She also anticipated an elevator. But those features did not end up being part of the renovation.
When a building permit was issued for the project in October 2008, it was for $1,464,886.
The Bubins – parents of former University of Illinois and professional football player Sean Bubin – opened Ko-Fusion restaurant in One Main Plaza in downtown Champaign in 2005. They previously operated Miko restaurant in Urbana but sold that restaurant in 2007.