By: Alli Harlan
Urbana’s well-known Willman’s Furniture store is stepping into a new direction as renovations are underway.
A co-work hub for local small businesses and loft apartments is going to take place in the three-story building.
The project entails a 26,950-square-foot renovation and a $2.9 investment.
WillWork, the rebranded business will occupy about 6,965 square feet.
“The Urbana community is shaping its vision for the future by coming together to spur downtown revitalization and attract more job opportunities,” said Governor Mike DeWine.
Located at 219 N. Main Street, the building will be a combination of Willman Lofts and WillWork Co-Workspace.
The first floor will be WillWork, a hybrid coworking business that provides “one-stop-shop” services via community and expert members as well as staff support for start-up companies and existing businesses.
The upper two floors will be converted into loft living space with nine residential units total.
“When we identified the layout and useability of this beautiful historic structure to be nearly irrelevant in today’s retail and commercial standards, we knew we had to redefine its layout and use,” said local developer Jamon Sellman.
“The building’s history, location, and architectural significance represent a blend of unique qualities that lend to its substantial potential for success as the WillWork space,” said the Owner of WillWork Sarah Mackert.
Supporters hope the project will serve as an anchor to catalyze additional investment in downtown Urbana. This project was made possible by the collaborative efforts of Sellman Enterprises LLC, WillWork, JobsOhio, the Dayton Development Coalition, the City of Urbana, the Champaign Economic Partnership, and the Champaign County Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Bureau.
“The City of Urbana has taken the right steps to prepare for future growth through prior community planning efforts that identified the need to develop new housing market opportunities and to explore and support policies that repurpose, redevelop, and reoccupy existing development,” said City of Urbana Mayor Bill Bean.
JobsOhio’s Vibrant Community program supported the revitalization project with a $800,000 grant.
The JobsOhio Vibrant Community Program was established to assist small and medium-sized communities with the implementation of catalytic development projects that fulfill a market need and represent a significant reinvestment in Ohio communities.
Eligible projects include mix-use projects, real estate development projects, and shared spaces that meet the JobsOhio project criteria.
In 2018, community leaders and stakeholders began efforts to revitalize the downtown district of Urbana.
As part of the strategic plan to bring more housing and entertainment to the downtown district, the need for living and convenient, professional office space was found to be lacking.
Terry Slaybaugh, Vice President for Suits and Infrastructures at Jobs Ohio
Sarah Mackert, Independent Architect of Urbana and Columbus