Fire destroys downtown Champaign building

The historic Metropolitan Building in downtown Champaign is rubble after a fire early Friday morning. James VandeBerg

The historic Metropolitan Building in downtown Champaign is rubble after a fire early Friday morning. James VandeBerg

By Daily Illini Staff Report

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – An early morning fire destroyed a historic building in downtown Champaign.

Deputy Fire Chief Tim Wild said the Metropolitan Building collapsed around 5:30 a.m., about 10 minutes after firefighters arrived. Nobody was in the building and there were no injuries.

The downtown area was still closed to traffic and the public at 1 p.m. Friday, according to a Fire Department spokeswoman. The area was expected to “be functional” at some point Friday evening.

Crews were continuing to take down portions of the unstable walls and the city’s Public Works department was coordinating with Ameren IP to allow access to a gas shut-off valve.

The Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District has rerouted several bus lines that travel through the area, including the 2 Red and 4 Blue lines. A full list of bus reroutes is available here.

The 1870s-era building most recently housed an estate antiques store, and its upper floors were under renovation.

Residents of the downtown area were notified of the danger by police and fire personnel knocking on doors this morning. Smoke detection systems in nearby buildings were set off by the smoke coming from the blaze as well, according to a department release.

A Fire Department spokeswoman said it could be days before investigators can get in the building to determine the cause.

Embers started small fires on the roof of the Orpheum Children’s Science Museum and Jim Gould restaurant, but they were quickly extinguished.

Fire fighters from Urbana, Savoy, Edge Scott, Eastern Prairie and St. Joseph assisted.

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