“I” Hotel, Houlihans scheduled to open in mid-August

Category : Research Park
Posted on: July 14, 2008


CHAMPAIGN – Peter Fox said he hopes to have a certificate of occupancy for the new “I” Hotel and adjoining Houlihan’s Restaurant by July 29 and have both facilities open Aug. 11.

The manager of Fox/Atkins Development said he’s spending much of this month at the site to make sure the 126-room hotel at First Street and St. Mary’s Road opens as scheduled.

The five-story hotel, adjacent to a new University of Illinois-owned conference center, will have room rates starting at $119, with most guests expected to be business- or university-related, Fox said.

The property is aiming for an AAA four-diamond rating by making extra services available. In addition to Houlihan’s, the hotel will have a small cafe that serves pastries, Starbucks coffees, beer and wine. Guests can also have access to massage, salon, chiropractic and dry-cleaning services through arrangements with local providers, Fox said.

Each guest room will have an orchid in it, a print by a local artist and a collection of eight to 10 older books for browsing, he added. Guests will also have access to a series of walking trails south and east of the hotel.

Other features include an exercise room and lobby video screens that can show information from UI affiliates, such as Krannert Art Museum and the Division of Intercollegiate Athletics.

The adjacent UI conference center should be ready by the first of August, said Robert Todd, a retired UI associate vice president for administration who has been serving as a consultant on the project. Carpet and tile still need to be installed, as does audio-visual equipment, he said.

“I’ve been around the university for 32 years, and since the late ’70s, the UI has wanted to have a conference center,” Todd said. “We tried it at least three different times, and finally we have a conference center. It’s a good facility, very flexible.”

The center was designed to accommodate a conference of 500 in such a way that banquets can be set up without tearing everything else down, he said. There are breakout rooms as well, for smaller groups to assemble.

The “I” Hotel is Fox’s second hotel investment. He was previously an investor in the Hampton Inn in Urbana, but sold his interest a couple of years ago.

Fox said he chose Houlihan’s after looking at several restaurant chains, largely because he felt it was “family-friendly, but would also appeal to faculty.” The restaurant will accommodate about 220, with a semi-private seating area and an outdoor patio that seats about 70.

Discussing other developments in the University of Illinois Research Park, Fox explained why Fox/Atkins on June 23 acquired the former Motorola building at the north end of the park.

“We like the location. Motorola built a quality building,” he said. Plus, when Fox/Atkins shows the park to visitors and prospective tenants, “we don’t want to have an empty building languishing for a year and have to explain it,” he added.

The upper floor will likely be reserved for a major tenant, while the lower floor will be divided for multiple tenants, he said.

In regard to other developments, Fox said:

  • Fox/Atkins will build a second Technology Development and Fabrication Center on South Oak Street, immediately north of the existing one. The new building will be about 20,000 square feet and is expected to be complete by November. Fox expects it to house small companies graduating from the EnterpriseWorks business incubator.
  • The park’s next major office building will likely be built south of the new hotel and conference center on the east side of First Street. It’s expected to be three stories with 65,000 to 70,000 square feet, he said.
  • Plans are still in the works for a 40,000-square-foot retail center at the northeast corner of First Street and Windsor Road, after First Street has been widened there. Fox said the center is expected to be somewhat similar to the Shoppes of Knollwood, the shopping center his company developed along South Neil Street.
  • Fox and co-investors now have 15 Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwich franchise stores –two in Bloomington, Ind., and the rest in North and South Carolina. Some of the new stores in the Carolinas were acquired, and others were started from scratch.
  • He continues to invest in several companies, many of them also supported by IllinoisVentures, the UI’s start-up services company. The investments include SmartSpark Energy Systems, RiverGlass, Eden Park Illumination and ShareThis. Fox said he has also invested in a machine tool business in Greenville, S.C.