From WILL - News Headlines -

Urbana Metro Centre Plan Will Get More Discussion

Urbana's city council will further explore the idea of a seven-story downtown development that would include retail space, offices, and condominiums.

Champaign developer Gary Olsen now estimates the cost at a little over $80-million. Monday night's 5-0 vote by the city council meant no firm commitment, but directed Urbana's legal staff to prepare a document, saying Olsen can market his Vine Street Metro Centre idea to investors.

The plan looks to have four total levels of office space, retail on the first floor, and nearly 30 condominiums on two others. Two levels of parking would be underground, and town homes would be in a smaller building to the east. Alderman Charlie Smyth called the project ambitious, telling Olsen he is 'moving forward in spite of the economy.'

It's one the developer believes will turn around.

"The United States will slowly get out of this," Olsen said. "That's what I'm counting on. It will be a much better situation when this building is dedicated - maybe in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of our beautiful shopping center. It probably needs some help, too".

Lincoln Square Village is across the street from the proposed site, and will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2014. Mayor Laurel Prussing said the size of the proposal concerns her, but wants to take the time to get the proper amount of public input.

"It's our land, and we're going to be very much involved in what's the proper scale," she said. "What's economically viable? You're never going to get a perfect answer, but you get to a better answer by having a lot of discussion about it and involving a lot of people. And if there's investors that are willing to do it at a certain scale, that tells you something right there."

Olsen said such a site would appeal to non-profit groups, and lawyers, who could walk to the nearby federal and county courthouses.

The plan is to locate in Urbana's Tax Increment Financing District, and also where Goodyear Tire holds a lease on the property. So if the project moves forward, it's unlikely any construction would take place in 2012. Olsen's plan also includes a separate building of town homes to the east.

The city council expects to revisit the Metro Centre idea next month.

(Drawing courtesy of Olsen and Associates)