Urbana City Council To Vote On Agreement With New Hotel Developer

The now-closed Urbana Landmark Hotel

The Urbana Landmark Hotel, which has been closed since early 2016.

Travis Stansel/Illinois Public Media

There’s a new developer lined up to buy and reopen the Urbana Landmark Hotel. And Mayor Diane Marlin says this new project is worth the city’s investment.

Two years ago, Mayor Marlin rejected a proposal from New Jersey-based Crimson Rock Capital for the downtown hotel that would have required $15 million from the city to cover a loan, to be paid off with future tax revenue.

For this new proposal, the mayor says Marksons Affiliates LLC is taking a greater share in the financial risk for the $16.8 million project than Crimson Rock had taken in the earlier proposal. And the city’s contribution would be less: at least $5.2 million, to be paid back with future tax revenue.

“They (Marksons Affiliates) won’t receive public funds until the renovation is complete, they have a certificate of occupancy and they’ve secured the brand,” said Marlin.

The brand is Tapestry Collection by Hilton, an upscale boutique hotel line, which is also the brand that Crimson Rock hoped to secure for their 2017 proposal. But the earlier developer resisted the city’s demand that the brand affiliation be guaranteed before the agreement went ahead.

Marlin says the Maryland-based Markson and its manager, Samuel M. Spiritos, like the building’s location --- near the U of I campus and area hospitals --- and the atmosphere of downtown Urbana.

“So they liked what was happening in downtown, as far as the new businesses and the music scene,” said Marlin. “They loved the location. And they liked the fact that it was a very unique property --- not without its challenges, but it’s a unique, historic property.”

Marlin says the new developer wants to renovate the public areas of the hotel to keep them largely as people remember them, and to completely modernize the hotel rooms. A Letter of Intent signed Thursday by the city and Markson Affiliates calls for 120 hotel rooms to be ready for use, plus the hotel’s full restaurant, bar and conference center facilities, and the “preservation of historic elements wherever feasible.”

The 96-year-old Urbana Landmark Hotel (originally the Urbana Lincoln) was designed in the Tudor Revival style by local architect Joseph W. Royer, whose other local buildings include the Urbana Free Library and Champaign County Courthouse in downtown Urbana and the Illinois Traction Building in downtown Champaign. The building’s front entrance was obscured in the 1960’s by the construction of Lincoln Square Mall. Together, the hotel and mall are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Urbana Landmark Hotel has been closed since 2016, and its current owner, Xiao Jin “XJ” Yuan, has been trying to sell it.

The Urbana City Council will vote Monday night, May 20, to ratify the letter of intent, paving the way to an interim development agreement, which would allow negotiations on a final agreement to begin. The meeting begins at 7 PM at the Urbana City Building. Marlin says a city council vote on the final agreement is expected in July.

Story source: WILL