Downtown Building Getting $2.5 million Renovation
A century-old building in the heart of downtown Urbana will undergo a $2.5 million renovation in coming months.
The Urbana City Council on Feb. 6 approved a development agreement with D&E Enterprises, LLC, to redevelop the Cohen building at 136 W. Main St., at the northeast corner of Main and Race streets.
The building most recently housed the Phebus & Koester law office. Tentative plans call for it to be converted into a restaurant/bar and into office space or apartments on the second floor.
Under the agreement, the city will reimburse up to $500,000 of the total project cost, using tax increment financing funds.
Businessman Dan Maloney, 54, of Champaign purchased the building last summer and is excited about its potential. The property is currently being marketed to restaurant tenants by Dan Clark with Sperry Van Ness/Ramshaw Real Estate on Maloney’s behalf.
“I had been looking for a building that had a lot of potential as well as some historic interest,” Maloney said. “I was excited when I learned this downtown property was available. It’s a wonderful location and a real neat building. We think it will spark a lot of interest.”
Mayor Laurel Prussing said the development agreement represents another step forward in the ongoing transformation of Urbana’s downtown. “Local businesses continue to invest in Urbana,” she said. “In the last four years alone, over 100 new and expanded businesses have located in all commercial areas of the city.”
This project is also consistent with a long-standing city goal to encourage the relocation of offices along Main Street to the upper floors to allow for more active retail and restaurant uses on the ground floor, Prussing said.
Brandon Boys, Urbana’s Economic Development Manager, said the Cohen building will be the fifth major storefront reactivation in downtown Urbana in the past four years.
The Cohen building has just shy of 15,000 square feet of space on its three levels, including a large basement that has previously only been used for storage. The completed renovation would ideally include a restaurant/bar on the first floor, a “speakeasy bar” in the basement and office space or apartments on the second floor.
The renovation would include installation of a new ADA accessible elevator, fire sprinklers and rooftop solar panels.
Finding an anchor tenant is now the primary focus and Clark is already aggressively talking to restaurant owners and entrepreneurs. Once a favorable tenant is secured, it will likely take several months to complete the improvements and open the business, he said.
Maloney gave residents a chance to tour the building on Jan. 6 during the Imbibe Urbana First Friday event. He said the building was built by Nat Cohen, a cigar manufacturer, in 1907 and that the western-most part of the building originally housed the Urbana Banking Co. A bank vault, along with many other historic features, still remains within the building.
The Cohen Building was designed in the Classical Revival style by Urbana architect Joseph Royer, who also designed the Champaign County Courthouse, Urbana High School and the Urbana Lincoln Hotel. More information on the historic property can be found at www.136mainstreet.com.