Downtown Urbana’s new businesses contribute to area revival, but boom yet to come

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Urbana Landmark Hotel, to be renamed Hotel Royer, undergoing remodeling on Friday, December 24, 2021. photo by Darrell Hoemann/C-U Citizen Access

The city of Urbana is once again trying to revitalize its downtown, but delays in business openings have left residents wondering when to expect the revitalization to boom.

Over the past few months, downtown Urbana has welcomed a new Mexican and Peruvian cuisine restaurant, an eccentric art bar and a local ice cream shop.

Within the next year, the area will also include the long-delayed reopening of Hotel Royer and the opening of central Illinois’s first H Mart. But with the two projects experiencing delays and the vacancies left from business closures, residents are left hoping the new businesses will show signs of revitalization downtown.

Urbana resident Diana Quizhpi said she is hopeful.

“The pandemic changed Urbana a lot,” she said. “It used to be much livelier and busier, but I’m glad that these different businesses are coming to Main Street, so it’ll bring in more people.”

Urbana’s newest cultural food destination Encanto Restaurant and Bar, which opened Sept. 1, offers various Mexican and Peruvian dishes. Taking over where Crane Alley used to be, which closed in June 2022, Encanto has refreshed the vacant building at 115 W Main Street that sat unoccupied for over a year.

The Main Scoop, a locally owned ice cream shop, opened its doors to customers on Dec. 14 at 133 W Main Street. Its other locations are situated in Mahomet and Monticello, and the ice cream shop has given area residents a taste test on game days inside Memorial Stadium.

H Mart, a Korean grocery store, is also set to make its appearance in the Urbana area. H Mart is set to take over the former Save-A-Lot box building at 220 N Broadway Avenue, across the street from the Station Theatre, next year. Plans for an H Mart aren’t all too new to the city. In 2020, one was originally planned to be built on Neil Street but was paused due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

H Mart has no official opening date but was expected to open late this year. H Mart Executive Director Kwon Tae-Hyung reported that they would ensure that the Urbana location would open in 2023. As of mid-December, the newest H-Mart location has yet to open.

Hotel Royer, formerly known as Landmark Hotel, was set to open its doors back on Dec. 31, 2022, but with multiple delays, the grand reopening has been pushed back to March 15, 2024, according to the hotel’s website.

Experiencing delays due to COVID-19 and supply shortages, Hotel Royer has pushed its grand opening twice since the project started. City officials have given Hotel Royer an investment of $5.5 million. With the delays, Urbana officials have proposed a 4% boutique hotel tax on all hotel room rentals to regenerate their investment.

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