City council gets update on new University hotel

By Stephanie Lulay

In their meeting Tuesday night, the Champaign City Council discussed an updated report for the University Hotel-Conference Center.

The center, located on St. Mary’s Road and slated for completion in fall 2007, will include a mid-size conference center, a connecting hotel and restaurant. The project is costing the University $11 million, said Clark Wise, director of Capital Project Administration.

However, to offset some of the University’s financial burden, the city previously agreed to fund part of the project by returning taxes that the city would normally collect from the completed project. The funding will not exceed $3 million or last beyond 15 years.

“Tourism really is a vital element of our economic development,” City Manager Steve Carter said.

The updated design that was presented will have a 38,500 square feet conference center that can hold 500 people in banquet seating in the main ballroom. The planned four star hotel project will have 124 rooms.

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“It will be nice to have a really classy hotel and restaurant to celebrate or have a splurge event,” said Councilman Tom Bruno. “Statewide conferences in this size range would find Champaign prices extremely affordable.”

Also during the meeting, the council discussed the 2005 Affirmative Action Audit.

The city’s workforce is currently 12.5 percent minorities, falling short of the 14.7 percent goal.

In four of the eight Equal Employment Opportunity Commission categories, the city failed its minority goals.

In the new hires during 2005, out of 49, eight were minority and 22 were women. However, out of the forty-two employees that left jobs from the city last year, seven were minorities and 22 were female.

Although they did not meet their goal, Lori Blumm, Assistant Human Resources Director for the city said she believes that they have made progress.

Councilman Vic McIntosh said he believes that the city has done a good job trying to hire the best people and a mix.

“Numbers can be skewed, but we’re right up there on the top of most (other cities),” he said.