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Reconstruction Plan in Place for Fire-Damaged Campustown Building

A building nearly destroyed by fire in Champaign's Campustown neighborhood could be operating again by early 2012.

The fire that began in the upstairs of the structure in the 600 block of East Green Street brought business to a halt at Mia Za's café, Zorba's restaurant, and Pitaya clothing on March 23rd.

But an architectural firm has filed a permit to rebuild, and work with the three owners going from the drawings of the shell of the outer building. Neil Strack with Architectural Expressions LLP said the initial plans are to place a new upstairs, roof, and front façade on the building. He expects it will be about 60 days before the building's occupants can do their work.

"How long does it take for their drawings to get ready, ordering materials, contracts, so on and so forth," said Strack. "That would be past that 60 days, so you're talking about another 3 or 4 months after that before you see your first tenants open back up again."

Strack said communication will be a big concern moving forward since the building has three different owners and four different tenants, which includes two upstairs apartments.

Champaign's Building Safety Supervisor, Gary Bowman, said the challenge now is restoring the roof and outer shell after reviewing drawings of the building's original 1920's design.

"It's always a bit more complicated when you're trying to go back and repair something that's damaged and somewhat of an existing structure as opposed to building brand new from ground level," Bowman said. "A lot of times it's actually faster to build brand new than it is to try to repair an existing structure and correct all the things that are necessary for that. That inevitably adds time to the project."

Strack said it will take some time to comply with current codes in the old structure. The demolition and removal of remaining debris has been completed.

(Photo by Jeff Bossert/WILL)

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