The Venue CU

Award of Excellence

The Venue CU

Interior photo of a bar from the renovated Venue CU
Interior view of The Venue CU after ECI Construction Services’ renovations

The Venue CU is a 10,000 square feet upscale wedding and event space located in downtown Champaign and includes a full bar and lounge for on‐site receptions. This project combined two historic locations into one upscale event space. The Varsity Ballroom is located in what was originally named the Varsity Theater which opened in 1906. A large remodel took place in 1943 when modern projection equipment and leather seating was added. The theater remained open until the late 1970s. The Main Street Lounge is inside what was the Vriner’s Confectionery, which was open from 1898‐1997.

The Venue CU is listed in the National Historic Landmark Registry and the National Register for Historical Places and much of the original features have been preserved and are seen throughout the space. The original tile in the Main Street Lounge was laid by hand by the founding owner Peter Vriner and was reproduced throughout the bar area. The original tin ceiling was also replicated throughout the entire space.

To prevent misinterpretations of Historical Society standards, the Historical society approved matching the existing fixtures, as well as being involved with material selection and colors.

East Central Illinois Construction Service’s (ECI) involvement started by developing concept layouts and preliminary budgeting with the building owner, consulted on putting together design and specialty construction team members, participated in competitive bidding and ultimately provided complete design‐build services for the building tenant, The Venue CU. The preliminary budgeting allowed the owner to negotiate concessions with the City of Champaign and develop the lease terms with the tenant. To meet the tenants “pre‐COVID‐19” time frame, it was decided to break the project into 3 separate “chunks” – Shell/Vanilla Box/Tenant Buildout – involving multiple contractors and overlapping work scopes.

With the building being over 100 years old there were a number of various structural problems and water penetration issues. On the exterior, brick parapets were failing and required rebuilding, all of the original windows were replaced with historic replicated windows and the exterior walks and entrances had to be modified to meet current codes. Inside the floors were very uneven requiring additional foundations, supports, and leveling. Many of the walls required reconstruction, and additional bracing. As one would expect, much of this was outside of the original scope of work and was necessary to ensure fixtures, sinks, and bars were all installed properly and even.

Award seal image that reads: Associated Builders and Contractors, ABC Excellence Award, 2020 Excellence in Construction Awards, Illinois Chapter