March 14–URBANA — Crimson Rock Capital, the developer which has redeveloped hotels dating back to the late 1800s and early 1900s, made its case Monday for taking on the 94-year-old Landmark Hotel.
Dionis Rodriguez, Crimson Rock's founder and managing principal, and Bill Walsh, the project's construction manager, pitched to the Urbana City Council their plans to turn Landmark into a Hilton Tapestry boutique hotel.
The redevelopment deal, which is asking Urbana for help to the tune of $9.5 million in bonds issued post-construction, was first made public last week and will be discussed by the council in the coming weeks.
"I think (Landmark) can be restored to a leading three- or four-star hotel," Rodriguez said.
"We really like the history, affiliation with (Abraham) Lincoln, and we'd like to bring back its affiliation with the university (of Illinois). I've heard a lot of students say they never go to Urbana but Champaign and Campustown instead."
Walsh said the hotel's current amount of 128 bedrooms is slated to stay roughly the same. He said the smallest room is 201 square feet with the largest at 493 square feet, which are generally smaller sizes than hotel rooms built today.
"I'm not worried about it," Walsh said, noting that changing the number of rooms available would be too expensive. "What you do is mix up the room types, change the bed sizes, deal with what you've got."
Rodriguez said he strongly prefers doing a complete redevelopment, instead of a fraction of the work, since he wants a revamped Landmark to spur growth and economic activity in downtown Urbana.
"As an investor, we could probably make a lot more money by doing a much smaller renovation," Rodriguez said. "That's not what you guys need, what you're looking for, and not why we're coming to this town. You need to do (a complete redevelopment) for major catalytic change."
Thirteen residents expressed support for changing Landmark, and three shared their cautious support, urging council members to really consider the finances involved and how Crimson Rock is not locally based.
Rodriguez and Walsh said the project totals $19 million, or $146,154 per key. Planning is slated to last 12 months or more, and they said the renovation should take the same amount of time. To help with the cost, they said they'll be pursuing historic tax credits.
"If the city goes for this and provides the bond to the developer, we would have to open the hotel and effectively perform before you guys participate," Rodriguez said to the council.
In addition, Rodriguez and Walsh said the project will include installing a four-pipe HVAC system, converting bathtubs to walk-in showers, modernizing the building's exterior, installing makeup air in the corridors and renovating the lobby, meeting space, restaurant/kitchen and bar/lounge.
Landmark won't be reformed into the standard commercial Hilton, Rodriguez said. Being a part of the Tapestry boutique hotel branch would allow Landmark to maintain its historic aspects.
"There are specific (Hilton) standards, but (Tapestry) gives you more of an artistic license," Rodriguez said. "Hilton will be highly involved they'll make many visits and won't approve until it fits their quality standards."
Walsh said the proposed project manager is New Castle Hotels and Resorts, and the proposed architect is John T. Campo & Associates.