On February 20, members of the City of Champaign Historic Preservation Commission, Plan Commission and Planning and Development Department Staff attended a tour of the Former Coca-Cola Bottling Plant at 1201 South Neil Street. Over the past year, Robert Monti has restored and the historic Art Deco factory into the new home of Papa Del’s Pizza Factory. Mr. Monti worked closely with local architect Kennedy ‘Keddy’ Hutson to ensure that the renovation respected the historic integrity of the building and to ensure that the prominent building will be a fixture of the community for many years to come.
Mr. Monti and Mr. Hutson took Commissioners and Staff through the entire building. Renovation work will be completed in a few weeks. The interior and exterior brick was tuck pointed, a new entryway and permanent awning was added along the north wall, and exterior lighting was updated to be more in keeping with the architectural style of the building. The original neon lighting around the parapet wall was replaced with LED lighting. A new blade sign was installed on the Neil Street façade, and the sign used at their Village of the Crossing location was moved to the rear façade along Randolph Street.
In addition to the new kitchen, (which produces 120 pizzas per hour) new bar area, and seating to accommodate over 300 guests, the second floor has been restored into a banquet and event space for up to 120 people, complete with two new accessible bathrooms, a second bar, and a separate kitchen. A new elevator was installed using the existing elevator shaft and the original wood and steel trusses were treated and restored. This will be the first time that the second floor has been available for use by the public since the late 1970s. Mr. Monti also restored the original elevator mechanism, manufactured and installed by Hollister-Whitney Elevator Company of Quincy Illinois in 1937. The mechanism will be on display in the new entryway.
An application for Local Landmark status was reviewed and approved by the Historic Preservation Commission, Plan Commission and City Council in July. The landmark status gives the project a fifty percent reduction in required off-street parking. Additionally, a rezoning of adjacent properties was approved by Plan Commission and City Council in September so that a new parking lot could be built along Avondale Avenue. Landscaping and an opaque fence will be installed in early spring to comply with zoning requirements for parking lot landscaping and buffers. The Historic Preservation Commission also approved a Certificate of Appropriateness for the installation of the Randolph Street façade sign in December.