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Destihl Restaurant and Brew Works, 318 South Towanda Avenue, Normal. (Pantagraph file photo/STEVE SMEDLEY)

CHAMPAIGN -- Interior work on the restaurant planned for the new M2 building in downtown Champaign is expected to begin sometime this month.

Destihl Restaurant and Brew Works, originally expected to open last fall, is still planning to be in M2, according to Matt Potts, the brewer who founded the Normal-based restaurant and brewery.

His company is currently working on architectural plans and construction bids. An opening date is now likely to occur in mid to late fall.

Potts attributed the delay to a number of issues, including the economy and the fire across the street at the Metropolitan Building. And the early estimates for an opening were just that estimates, he pointed out.

"Great things are worth the wait," Potts said. Much like his bourbon-infused, oak-aged Titan Barley Wine, he added.

Destihl will occupy about 8,450 square feet of space on the ground floor of the multiuse building.

Work on the BankChampaign branch, set to occupy 1,241 square feet on the ground floor of M2, started last month. The branch is expected to open around September.

'The building is done'

M2 on Neil is a $44 million, nine-story project at the corner of Neil, Church and Main streets. Construction started in the spring of 2007.

"For all intents and purposes, the building is done," said Jon "Cody" Sokolski, chief executive officer of One Main Development, the firm behind the project.

The first office tenant, a law firm, moved onto the fourth floor recently. And condominium owners have been able to move in since April, when the first occupancy permits were issued. Eleven of the 51 condos in the building have sold so far, according to Mike Royse, One Main's president.

Still the project has not been without some setbacks. At the time of the groundbreaking at the end of April 2007, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was around 13,000 and the state unemployment rate was 4.6 percent. That fall the financial markets started their decline. And in November 2008, a fire destroyed the Metropolitan Building at the southwest corner of Neil and Church streets, leaving behind damaged windows (among other things) in M2 and a gaping hole where the Metropolitan once stood.

Because of the downturn in the financial markets, plans for a trading floor in the building were scrapped, although Sokolski said the idea might be revisited in the future.

And a handful of mechanics liens have also been filed. Royse, who said the liens have been paid, attributed the liens to companies being more nervous about receiving payments due to the state of the economy.

But Sokolski remains optimistic. Although the Champaign-Urbana area is "feeling the pinch of the current economy," he said he sees the University of Illinois as "a hedge against the vagaries and vicissitudes" of the economy.

A good fit

Potts said he is excited to open a restaurant in Champaign, and the culture of Champaign-Urbana as well as the UI, fits in with his business.

"The urban atmosphere of the growing downtown Champaign area and the M2 Building in particular is also well-suited for our urban concept and our contemporary, edgy menu," he said.

In addition to a menu that will feature American cuisine with influences from Latin America, the Mediterranean and Asia, Potts said most food will be made from scratch and use natural and some locally grown foods. Beer will be brewed in the Champaign location as well as in Normal.

In addition to Destihl, which will face south onto Church Street and east facing Neil Street, and BankChampaign, the ground floor of M2 has about 6,000 additional square feet of space for retail that has not been leased.

On the second floor (each floor is about 25,000 square feet) is space for a mix of commercial and retail.

"The shell and core is done, but the build-out is not done because tenants usually want to do that," said Emily Schmit, marketing communications for One Main Development.

No leases have been signed for the second floor, but the development company has a few possibilities, including a fitness center.

"We're in discussions, but nothing is at the announcement stage yet," Royse said.

"We're really picky," Sokolski said. "Promoting the independent (businesses) is absolutely crucial to the identity of the community itself." Three floors the third through the fifth floors will be devoted to offices. The third and fifth floors have yet to be built out. The fourth floor, however, is done and is being called the enclave, a mix of various types of office suites. Three offices are occupied so far: Two for law offices, the other for the Champaign-Urbana Green Business Association.

Schmit said the company is not worried about office leasing.


As with condos, "people tend to wait to see the building first (before buying or leasing), and we are seeing a lot of interest now," Schmit said.

The sixth through ninth floors contain completed residential condominiums ranging in price from about $177,000 to $423,0000. There are 27 one-bedroom units, 20 two-bedroom units and four three-bedroom units.

Condo owners started moving in earlier this spring.

"The largest number of people who buy (condos) are coming in from some kind of urban experience," Royse said. "Really there's a scarcity of supply for that in this town.

The heating and air-conditioning systems are high efficiency, and the building has features such as lights that turn on when people walk through a door or into a hallway.

In addition to trash chutes, developers installed chutes for recyclables and Royse said they're investigating composting options as well.

And because it's a high-rise, the building has various features like pressurized stairwells, Royse said.

There is some fire remediation work yet to be done on M2, caused by the November fire at the Metropolitan Building across the street. That work, which entails replacing exterior brick, will not affect occupancy, Schmit said.

"The good news is in 50 to 75 years, if the property is cared for during those years, it will still be here, with the mechanical systems still working," Royse said.

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