Urbana moves forward with proposed hotel

A group of Champaign County investors is inching forward with plans to develop a new hotel in Urbana for the first time in years.

Investors are focusing on about three acres of property near the intersection of Ohio 55 and U.S. 68 for a potential Cobblestone brand hotel with between 54 and 58 rooms, said Terry Howell, one of about eight investors who have verbally expressed interest in the project. The group has agreed to a potential sale price with the property’s owner, but the deal is contingent on a zoning change under review as well as an official commitment from the investors, Howell said.

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“We have a pretty nice group and I think most people think Urbana needs it, so let’s give it a try,” Howell said.

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.

Assuming the project moves forward it’s possible construction could start in March and be finished by mid-September next year, Howell said.

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A request to rezone 8.7 acres of a roughly 11-acre parcel has been approved by Urbana’s planning commission and recently had a first reading at Urbana City Council, said Adam Moore, zoning officer for the city. The request would change the zoning from high-density residential to a general business district, allowing the hotel project to move forward. The proposal needs two more readings before council members can vote whether to approve the change.

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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. Champaign County has been losing possible revenue to Clark County, where there are several newer options for guests to stay overnight, said Jessica Junker, a managing partner for Core.

“The community is losing revenue not only in hotel revenue, they’re losing money on the room taxes, convenience store purchases, grocery sales and restaurants,” Junker said.

The area has several large manufacturing firms that could attract guests overnight, and Urbana University is also nearby and could attract additional business, she said.

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Core’s report recommended as many as 70 to 80 guest rooms, but the project being discussed by investors is more conservative to make sure the project is a success, said Marcia Bailey, economic development coordinator for the Champaign Economic Partnership.

“It is anticipated that a new hotel would capture displaced lodging demand currently staying in markets surrounding Urbana, OH,” the report states. “Additionally, the newness of the hotel should be well received in the marketplace. It’s location will be ideal to serve Urbana and regional markets. This type of hotel would also be capable of adjusting rates to best fit the demand in the market and the seasonality of the area.”

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, Bailey said. The goal isn’t to harm existing lodging businesses in the county, Bailey said, but to ensure enough rooms are available to meet demand.

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.

The Springfield News-Sun is commited to providing unmatched coverage of business and jobs in Clark and Champaign Counties. For this story, the paper spoke to city and economic development officials in Champaign County about a proposal to build a new hotel to attract more business to the city.

By the numbers:

3 — Estimated acres for the hotel

8.7 — Acres that may be rezoned

58 — Possible guest rooms

15 to 25 — Possible full-time jobs based on a 70 to 80 room hotel

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