You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.


  • ePAPER

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and interactive features. Starting at just 99c for 8 weeks.


Welcome to

Your source for Clark and Champaign counties’ hometown news. All readers have free access to a limited number of stories every month.

If you are a News-Sun subscriber, please take a moment to login for unlimited access.

Group’s $3.1M plan makes theater a civic center

Closed Urbana movie theater a key part of downtown, supporters say.

Church members voted to buy the now-closed Urbana Twin Cinemas and unveiled a three-phase, $3.1 million plan to create the Champaign Civic Center.

Urbana United Methodist Church parishoners Monday night approved the $225,000 purchase from Chakeres Theaters Inc. of Springfield, which abruptly closed the theater in October after 40 years in the city.

“This is a great opportunity to work with the community, work with surrounding churches, to really develop a community treasure that can serve our community for decades,” Pastor Jim Lillibridge said.

The church put $10,000 down on the building in the fall to give it until February to buy it. In that time, the church’s feasibility team, spearheaded by Dr. Dave Smith, has received community input and looked at possibilities for the building.

The team has worked with Urbana University, the Champaign Preservation Alliance, the arts council, the chamber and other community organizations to make its vision a reality.

“We live in a community that works together well,” Champaign County Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau Executive Director Sandi Arnold said.

“This needs to be a community project to get this done. I know the church has taken on a lot. It’s real important that Urbana University the other organizations, the chamber, preservation alliance and the arts council, jump on board,” Urbana Mayor Bill Bean said.

Phase one is expected to cost $850,000.

The first task is for the church to create a nonprofit corporation to take over the mortgage, remove any further financial obligations from the church and start the capital campaign for renovations.

The church plans to keep a majority on the board of directors for the new corporation, but it wants to get other community groups represented.

Until the corporation is formed, the mortgage, utilities, insurance and basic maintenance on the building will cost the church more than $2,000 a month.

Once the corporation is able to raise the money, the church hopes for it to restore and renovate the existing building into one grand auditorium with a 3D digital projector.

Basic stage lighting and a sound system would be added for community and faith-based events.

The single theater is expected to hold up to 350 people at the start and up to 500 in with future improvements.

The church wants to remodel the lobby, kitchen and remaining ground floor to include a lounge and retail kiosk space. It wants to restore the exterior of the building to its 1940 art deco architecture.

“The possibilities are endless, and so that’s what excites me the most,” Lillibridge said.

In phase two, the church hopes the corporation can raise another $850,000 for further developments to the building. It wants to remodel the second floor to include offices, a control booth and spacious rooms for banquets and receptions. It wants to add an elevator, rooftop deck and dining area, dressing rooms and a balcony above the auditorium. It hopes to improve the lighting and sound systems to accommodate professional music and local theater productions.

“It’s going to bring many more people to our community to eat in our restaurants, shop in shops, it’s going to be real good for our community,” Bean said.

Phase three is well down the road, but the church plans for the new corporation to purchase another downtown property and preserve it. The new building could provide more retail and office space, a youth center, a developing technologies center, a free health clinic, apartments, and possibly a web-based radio and TV broadcast studio for students of Urbana University and Champaign County schools.

Phase three is estimated at $1.4 million.

Church members were divided on the vote with 34 in favor and 19 opposed.

There were lots of questions at Monday’s meeting about the financing of the building. There is no guarantee for the church that the 501 (c) (3) corporation will ever be formed and be able to take over the lease. Also, non-for-profit organizations often take more than a year to form, and the church will be responsible for the more than $2,000 a month in upkeep for the building.

The worst-case scenario is the corporation never forms; in that case the church said it would sell the building.

Lillibridge asked people to vote for the “God” choice, not necessarily the “good” choice. He said it was better to vote for faithful decisions rather than successful decisions.

The church voted Monday to take out $43,000 out of its investment fund of about $150,000 for the down payment on the building.

The church’s purchase is contingent on getting the loan approved by banks.

The church does plan for the new corporation repay the down payment and other costs for the church when it is able to.

Feasibility team member Dave Smith is optimistic about the fundraising efforts. He said when he was at the building inspections office and told the secretary about what he was working on she asked,” When can I make a donation?”

The church collected $11,000 since in donations in just more than a week, which will help with monthly cost until the corporation is formed.

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Community News

End of an era as Ringling Bros. gears up for last two shows 
End of an era as Ringling Bros. gears up for last two shows 

It’s the end of an era.  After 146 years, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus is folding up the big tent forever, shuttering the ticket windows and putting the animals out to pasture. The circus has been a staple of American entertainment since the mid-1800s, wowing audiences with an array of exotic animals, breathtaking acrobatics...
Explosives fail to bring down Ohio’s tallest bridge
Explosives fail to bring down Ohio’s tallest bridge

Both sides of Interstate 71 at the Jeremiah Morrow bridge are reopened after another failed attempt to destroy the old bridge over the Little Miami River. Dispatchers at the Ohio State Patrol said the interstate opened just before 9 a.m. today after more explosives failed to completely down the old bridge. Our news partner WCPO is reporting cranes...
Body found in Grand Canyon likely boy swept away with step-grandmother
Body found in Grand Canyon likely boy swept away with step-grandmother

Grand Canyon National Park officials said Friday that a body found is likely that of a 14-year-old hiker who went missing in the park two weeks ago with his step-grandmother. According to the New York Post, Jackson Standefer of Chattanooga, Tennessee, was swept away along with LouAnn Merrell when the two were crossing a creek on April 15...
Masonic home celebrating 125 years
Masonic home celebrating 125 years

The Springfield Masonic Community is celebrating 125 years and is promoting recent renovations to its facilities on the historic Springfield campus. Originally built in 1892, the Springfield Masonic Community provides a range of services to residents 55 and older, including skilled nursing, rehabilitation, post-acute care and extended-care services...
Patchy fog to start the day; more storms due this week
Patchy fog to start the day; more storms due this week

Showers and storms tonight Cooler temperatures this week More storms possible Thursday Today: Partly to mostly cloudy skies today with highs in the middle 80s. It will be warm, breezy and muggy. While a stray shower or storm can’t be ruled out, it appears most of the afternoon should be dry. The chance for more showers and storms...
More Stories