Former Illini Media Building to offer new Campustown options

By Declan Harty

Joining the many construction projects on Green Street, the Illini Media Building will add three new businesses and campus housing over the next year. 

The building, located at 512 E. Green St. in Champaign, will soon host five new student apartments, two restaurants and one retailer, said Doug Larson, owner of the building and president of the Larson Company.

With inside construction and remodeling scheduled to finish at the end of the spring, Larson said the first-floor businesses should be ready to open this summer. Additionally, the student apartments that will take up the second floor will likely be available for rent starting in the fall semester. 

Larson is currently negotiating contracts to sign the two restaurants to the building’s first-floor spaces along Green Street. The third space on the first floor will host either a cell phone store or an additional restaurant, he said. 

Although he declined to comment on which businesses were interested in occupying the space, he said he thinks “the college market works a lot for some franchise-type operations.”

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    Roland Realty will manage the apartments on the second-floor space. There will be four apartments with four bedrooms and two bathrooms, and one apartment with two bedrooms and one bathroom.  

    The Larson Company also owns the locations of Wingin’ Out, Pizza Hut and the yet-to-be-completed five-story 112 E. Green St. apartment building. The Illini Media Company, which owns The Daily Illini, has long been an institution of constant change. According to Lilyan Levant, publisher and general manager of Illini Media, the building has been located at 512 E. Green St. for seven years, but struggled financially and was sold to Larson in May of 2013. Despite the new additions to the interior of the building, Levant said the Illini Media Company plans to continue to produce and perform in the building’s third floor. 

    “Mainly, our mission, as a non-profit, is to provide an educational and experimental setting for all types of media, marketing and etc. … We wanted to be responsible to our mission; we didn’t want to have any (financial) distractions,” she said.

    Larson said both the building’s exterior and location contributed to his decision to buy it.

    “I love the location, I like how the building looks,” Larson said. “I think it is a very pretty building, and it is nicely built. So those are probably the three main factors (for why we purchased it).”

    For businesses, the former Illini Media building’s location offers potential suitors a market that, according to Larson, is competitive but historically has been worthwhile. 

    Green Street is a widely advantageous area for businesses and retailers due to the large student population, said Jill Guth, director of commercial leasing at JSM.

    The construction on the building is part of one of the largest chain of construction projects on campus since the Campustown 2000 project, which was spearheaded by the city of Champaign and the University. The project caught the attention of national retailers, which now make up a large portion of the businesses on Green Street between First and Wright streets. 

    Like other developers in the area, Larson said he recognizes the potential of a continually changing area of campus.

    A variety of businesses and buildings are also currently in a state of construction and remodeling, including JSM Development’s Lot J Project (at the corners of Healey and Sixth streets), and the two high-rise apartment buildings being built to businesses at Fourth and Green streets and Sixth and Green streets, respectively.

    “Campustown is going up right now. It isn’t going out anymore: It is rising up. Everyone is wanting newer, (and) they want the latest technology, and you just have to go with time and just keep up with everybody,” said Ashley Matheny, a leasing agent for Bankier Apartments, which owns more than 30 properties on Green Street and the highrise under construction at the corner of Sixth and Green streets.

    “Green Street is the center; it is the hub of the University community,” Levant said.

    Declan can be reached at [email protected].