$900 million invested into construction projects around Champaign County, campus

It has been a big year for Champaign County construction. There is currently about $900 million invested into construction projects going on in the county and all around campus.

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Aside from Chicago, Champaign County probably has more construction projects than anywhere else in Illinois, said Busey Bank Vice Chairman Ed Scharlau at the Bank’s 61st economic seminar on April 16.

Many construction projects have been planned in Champaign, and some are already in progress, said Scharlau. By the end of 2015, there may be at least three new high-rise buildings on Green Street.

In addition to the construction of two residence halls at Ikenberry Commons, in which one is expected to be completed in 2013 and the other is scheduled to start in 2014, three residential facilities are scheduled to be completed by 2015 on Green Street.

Bankier Apartments is scheduled to demolish the current buildings at the southwest corner of Sixth and Green Streets on June 1, and begin construction on a 14-story apartment building afterwards.

Miriam Booth, managing broker of Bankier Apartments, said this building will be Bankier’s tallest and nicest apartment building. It will also be located at the heart of campus, which she said will likely encourage more businesses to come to the area. She said it will give students more options to live closer to class.

“I think the location is also perfect,” Booth said. “It’s right in the middle of campus, very convenient.”

On the other side of the street, JSM Development will begin construction of a 12-story hotel over Parking Lot J on October 1, next to Legends Bar and Grill, 522 E. Green St. The developer will pay approximately $4 million to purchase the lot and will also contribute $160,000 toward the reconstruction of Healey Street between Sixth and Fourth streets, estimated by the city to cost approximately $1.7 million in total.

A report from the city of Champaign said the redevelopment may generate up to $50,000 a year in property taxes for the city. The sales tax and property tax expected from the project may go up to $179,000 by the hotel’s fifth year from a base cost of about $140,000. The project’s completion date is set for August 2015.

If the Champaign City Council approves the developer’s application, HERE Champaign, LLC will begin construction in October of an apartment building at 308-312 E. Green St., where IHOP and Campus Liquor currently stand. The building will be considered 27 stories due to factors such as high ceilings. The building is scheduled to be completed in May 2015.

It will include 143 residential units, retail stores and will be equipped with an elevator-operated automatic parking vault. The Champaign City Council’s Plan Commission conducted a public hearing for the project on May 1, and the application will formally go to the council on June 4. This construction plans will be finalized in the summer following city council adoption approving the development.

Council member Will Kyles, District 1, said he thinks these new buildings will help with campus economy and employment. Kyles said he is hopeful that the new development will attract more students to the University, and it will be easier for parents to find a place to stay during special events such as Moms Weekend, sporting events or the graduation ceremony.

“(Students) will come not only for great education, but also because the campus is more attractive too,” Kyles said. “I think the living environment is also important to students.”

Green Street’s direction of development is consistent with the vision the planning department has had for the city, said Lorrie Pearson, land development manager for Champaign’s Current Planning Division. She said the construction projects are expected to help drive economic and employment growth, as well as attract more investment to the area.

“Obviously, construction means construction jobs,” Pearson said. “People will be coming in the community, and there will likely be more shops and restaurants.”

She said student apartment units along Green Street will give students more opportunities to walk to classes and lessen the number of cars on campus.

“Hopefully within one or two years, the city of Champaign will be able to provide more convenience of living to people in the community,” Pearson said.

Apart from the residential units, the new Electrical and Computer Engineering building, currently under construction, is scheduled for completion and open for classes in 2014. Renovations on Smith Memorial Hall and State Farm Center, formerly Assembly Hall, will also begin in 2014 with no specific end date set as of yet.

Earn can be reached at saenmuk2@dailyillini.com.