Downtown Urbana hotel

Urbana hotel project receives zoning approval

An Urbana hotel project took another step forward after Urbana City Council members recently approved a zoning change near the intersection of Ohio 55 and U.S. 68.

Council members voted to approve a rezoning request to change 8.7 acres of land at that site from high density residential to a general business district to allow the project to proceed, said Doug Crabill, community development manager for the city. The total parcel is about 11.5 acres.

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A group of investors is finalizing a proposal that could build a Cobblestone brand hotel with between 54 and 58 rooms on the site. If completed, the project would be Urbana’s first new hotel in years.

“There are many little details to take care of but we are moving ahead,” said Michael Major, one of the investors in the project. He declined to say how many investors have committed to the deal or exactly who has expressed interest in investing in the site.

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He said potential investors are planning to meet toward the end of this month, and it’s possible a deal to purchase the property for the new hotel could be completed by the end of this year. The investors have also formed a limited liability company, Major said. The News-Sun recently reported the group agreed to a potential sale price with the property’s owner, but the deal was contingent on the zoning change as well as an official commitment from the investors.

According to its website, the Cobblestone chain focuses on providing upper-midscale rooms, typically in smaller towns. The chain’s only other hotel in Ohio is located in Orrville, south of Akron.

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No further action can take place on the property for 30 days due to a city ordinance, Crabill said. After that period, he said the city can review site plans for the property along with any requests for a zoning permit.

Local economic development officials began taking a closer look at a possible hotel project earlier this year after a consultant from the Core Distinction Group determined there’s enough demand for rooms to make a new hotel feasible. The area has several large manufacturing firms that could attract guests overnight, and Urbana University is also nearby and could attract additional business, consultants told the News-Sun.

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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 there hasn’t been a new hotel in years.

A 2013 study by Tourism Economics showed that 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 information on the Champaign County Chamber of Commerce website.

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