There was a minor disaster in downtown Champaign Friday morning. An historic, 130-year-old building that was being renovated into lofts burned to the ground. Apparently it collapsed into the street just moments after the firefighters arrived, and then the massed pile of wood burned like a giant bonfire for an hour before they got it under control and extinguished.
Flames roared a hundred feet into the air, the heat cracking windows in businesses nearby. Some ancillary fires got started from direct heat and hot embers, but apparently these all got extinguished before any kind of damage could be done.
The fire was immediately across the street from the building where our new home will be, so we are very concerned about this. The south side of the building has been mostly finished on the exterior, so the fire, just a few feet away, shattered glass and scorched and discolored brick. The whole area looks like it's been bombed out, and crews were still working this afternoon to clean up the street and sidewalk.
The M2 building is located directly north of the Estate Sale Building that caught fire this morning. The winds were carrying the heat, embers and flames to the north and east so both the M2 and One Main buildings were in very dangerous positions. We are thankful that the fire was contained enough to limit damage to both structures.
We are able to tell, however, that some damage occurred to M2 and we are in the process of gathering a team of experts to investigate the building structures and systems to determine the full extent of that damage. From what we can see now, the south façade of M2 sustained a lot of heat from the fire, and the brick at this elevation is charred. The roofs on M2 took on some embers, although we cannot yet determine if the damage was anything more than superficial. Several of the windows on the south face of the building are cracked and will need to be replaced. This is a potential hazard to pedestrians on the street, so in cooperation with the City of Champaign, we are closing the sidewalk along Church Street until Monday. The M2 site is closed until Monday as well, and we are asking everyone to keep away from the site due to any potential hazards that we are not able to identify at this time.
The historic façade that we removed from the old Trevitt-Mattis bank building had previously been restored and put back into place on the south face of M2. At this time it looks like that façade was spared any damage.
The One Main building also received a lot of falling embers that caused damage to the awnings at jim gould and Kofusion. Our staff was out on the roof this morning as the fire was being controlled, and they were able to put out the embers before they caught our building on fire. The extent of the damage will need to be investigated. Some of the windows on the west and south elevations are cracked and will need to be replaced. In addition, the building took in some smoke. Our systems worked as designed and most of the smoke has already cleared out. Any lasting damage is not known at this time.
“We're heartbroken and words cannot adequately express how we feel. Our friends who own the Metropolitan Building were working on a high-quality restoration project that would have been an integral part of the downtown community, as well as a benchmark for quality & design. Our thoughts are with them today. Thank you to the Champaign Fire Department (as well as Urbana, Savoy, Edge Scott, Eastern Prairie and St. Joseph who assisted), the folks at Champaign Department of Public Works, and to all of the other agencies who reacted to this disaster today. We were so impressed by the response and how well the fire was contained. Today, the entire downtown community is saddened. It's time for us to all come together to get through this disaster. Times like this, I remind myself that One Main rose out of the ashes of a fire. And, maybe one day something great will come of this event.” – Cody Sokolski, CEO
What this is going to do to any move-in dates, nevermind the integrity of the building, is really worrying us. Thankfully, none of the building HVAC is functioning yet, or at least is not running, so no smoke got sucked into the interior like several other apartment buildings and businesses downtown. And our apartment is quite a ways away from the fire, so whatever damage occurred should not have affected us. But they will probably have to stall construction to do inspections for fire and heat damage.
I hope this whole move isn't, like, jinxed, or something. Having to move and sell a house in the middle of a nationwide economic crisis is bad enough.