Champaign County officials push forward plan to build new hotel

Champaign County economic development leaders will push ahead with a proposal that could lead to a new hotel in Urbana as early as next year.

A recent review conducted by a Wisconsin-based consultant showed there’s enough demand in Urbana that it would be feasible to build a new hotel with at least 70 to 80 rooms and meeting space, said Marcia Bailey, economic development coordinator for the Champaign Economic Partnership, the county’s economic development agency.

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No plans have been finalized, Bailey said. But local economic development leaders plan to meet with potential local investors as early as next month.

The study estimated the project could generate between 15 and 20 new jobs, depending on the size of the hotel, if it’s built.

“This meeting is just to generate the interest of other community leadership,” Bailey said.

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Champaign County has rooms available for overnight stays, including a downtown bed and breakfast and businesses like the Econo Lodge Inn and Suites and the Logan Lodge Motel. But the county hasn’t had a new hotel in years.

Elton Cultice, airport manager at Grimes Field in Urbana, has told the News-Sun he often reserves rooms in Springfield for events at the airport because of the few options available in Champaign County. That means less business for local restaurants and other businesses in Champaign County.

The CEP hired a consultant from Core Distinction Group to conduct the feasibility study. Staff from that company couldn’t be reached for comment Wednesday. The study was based on interviews with area businesses and local attractions that typically draw visitors overnight, as well as traffic studies from 2011 and 2014 provided by the CEP.

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That included staff from local tourist attractions like the Ohio Caverns. The study also consulted with other entities that might draw residents for overnight stays or business purposes, including Urbana University and a small number of manufacturing firms.

The total tourism impact in Champaign County resulted in more than $47 million in sales and enables the employment of more than 350 people in the county, according to a 2013 study by Tourism Economics.

Along with as many as 70 to 80 rooms, the Core Distinction Group’s report also recommended the potential hotel provide meeting areas with space for about 50 guests, a pool and a workout area. In the end though, all those decisions, including how many rooms are included in the final plans, will be determined by any investors who push the project forward, Bailey said.

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The hotel would be built within Urbana city limits, she said, but it’s too early to discuss any specific locations for the property.

If and when the project might move forward is still unclear, Bailey said. But if a decision to build the hotel is finalized this year, she said it’s likely the project could ramp up as early as 2019.

Bailey said the hotel would likely be a name-brand chain.

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