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And now the terminally stupid (fringe political candidate division) check in on the real reasons for the bad weather we've been having lately. It's a tender mercy that Atanus has no real chance of defeating Schakowsky even if she actually wins the primary, but if she did I'm sure such an event would be worth tons of potential future jokes for comedians across the US.
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I guess it should come as no surprise that an certain infamous shuttered hotel in Lincolnwood has gone national, getting coverage by Slate due to a 99% Invisible podcast referencing the place's famous architectural quirkiness.

I suppose going out with national coverage openly stating how shitty the place actually became in its later years is still going out on top, in a sense.
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Adios and thank for all the fun, even if I was a bit too young for Screaming Yellow Theater:

In a more than 40-year career as radio and TV host, Jerry G. Bishop won three Emmys and toured with the Beatles, but he may be best remembered as the original Svengoolie.

Mr. Bishop hosted "Screaming Yellow Theater," a horror-film show on WFLD-Ch. 32 from 1970 to 1973, as the coffin-dwelling hippie with a wacky sense of humor. His character has a devoted following to this day, family and former colleagues said.

"He was making really creative TV on almost no budget," said Wally Podrazik, curator at Chicago's Museum of Broadcast Communications. "I'd call Jerry G. Bishop the master of the non sequitur and running gag. Not just as Svengoolie, but as a radio DJ with a superb timing and a sense of unabashed silliness."

...which is exactly what you want in a horror movie show host, right?

To wit:

Plus a few clips with his chosen (?) successor, Rich Koz:

And let's not forget one of the most obvious ploys a horror show host can utilize: shameless pandering to the sensibilities of those male fans who've already hit puberty, shown right here (NOTE: there's nothing in this clip that's so raw that it can't be shown; it's just that FuzzyMemoriesTV insists on starting them on Play mode automatically, which means that the sound for this Tina McDowall segment possibly might be on whenever you arrive at this site. Hence, the link.

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“That's really what SF is all about, you know: the big reality that pervades the real world we live in: the reality of change. Science fiction is the very literature of change. In fact, it is the only such literature we have.”  - Frederik Pohl

Another depressing loss for the science fiction world, and I'm especially bummed that it had to happen during Worldcon weekend.

Before I start throwing links about Pohl's career at readers of this journal like over-sized electronic frisbees, let me point out that one of the things that kept me sane on many long, boring trips to and from my former job out in Elk Grove Village was, in fact, Pohl's writing. I went through at least five of his books that way (namely, The Space Merchants, The Merchants' War, Gateway, Beyond the Blue Event Horizon and The Best of Frederik Pohl), and the latter was especially important in keeping me sane when a snowstorm caused a 40-minute bus ride to turn into a ridiculous three-hour fiasco. He was just that good a writer, and more's the pity that I couldn't read even more of his work before his passing.

So rest in peace, Fred. Your work was vital (seemingly regardless of when it was written, which is a trick lesser writers might not have pulled off) and highly appreciated. You'll be greatly missed.

Official biography

SFWA memorial page

NY Times obituary

io9 article

Wikipedia page
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Well, I thought it eventually would come to this, just not after over six and a half years of post-closing rot and legal time-wasting:

Lincolnwood’s old Purple Hotel, which started life as a Hyatt before sliding down the scale of respectability, met its date with the wrecking ball Tuesday. Local officials celebrated the occasion as the end of an eyesore even as they looked back wistfully at its days as an icon.

The PH hosted 6 Capricons, two Duckons and Reactors apiece and a Windycon and was at one time a nice, woodsy/homey small hotel before it became a veritable health/building code violation magnet (several of which nearly closed the place down previous to Reactor in 2006, which was also the last large fan-related event it would host before it closed permanently in January 2007).

Believe it or not, I'll miss the place; After all, it hosted Capricon 5, which was the first fan-run SF convention I ever attended back in 1985. I just won't miss the disused, genuinely dangerous piece of crap it became in later years due to not-so-benign neglect and ownership that apparently had no idea what they were doing and seemingly didn't care much about that fact.

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How sweet it is.

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John Kass, as is his wont, used his column in the Chicago Tribune to express moral dudgeon that there's more than a few people out there that don't agree with his views on The Spiritual Crisis of Our Times (which is a nice way of saying A Growing Abandonment of Organized Religion) and apparently decided to enlist the help of Rod Dreher from The American Conservative to drive home the dull point of his column. This would be more of a point of boredom for me than anything else (after all, how do you argue with a man who was taken seriously by - wait for it - Glenn Beck?), but Michael Miner's retort in the Reader is worth looking over. An excerpt:

I suppose Kass and Dreher have put their finger on something, but they are willfully blind to something else. They are blind to why (beyond fashionability) so many Americans describe themselves—on dating sites, say—as "spiritual, not religious." They're blind to why a friend of mine is so spiritually curious that he's crossed the Pacific to attend a Buddhist retreat and has joined a Bible study group, yet describes himself as agnostic. And why I have no quarrel with either the idea of absolute truths or with the idea those truths help identify something that can be called evil.

I'm sure that the confusion of Kass, Dreher or both wouldn't be solved by the fact that there are nearly as many gradations of unbelief (or at least questioning of it) as there are interpretations of Christianity, Judaism, Islam or any other religion that comes to mind. Note that the friend that Miner mentions above seems quite open to any number of different experiences, religious or otherwise. I suppose that Kass and Dreher would be just as aghast concerning religious syncretism as they would by anything else they decry,

.And hey, even Kass' old buddy Weepy seems to have chosen Mormonism for his own, predictably odd reasons.,

But that's not worth a column in the Trib, now, is it?

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This is not a post intended to bash Capricon 33. No, really.

AFAIK, all of the events went off without a hitch. Anime - the department I'm now officially second in charge of for once - went off without a hitch. Near as I can tell, the MIB Pirate parties both went off without a hitch despite some last-minute bumps and bruises caused by policy changes towards parties that I won't go into detail over here. So why in the hell am I so glad that this one is in the books?

The usual ancillary personal shit, of course. What else?

For one thing, a long-term contract job that I thought I had nailed down two months ago blew up in my face right before (read: the day before) the convention started. Ambiguous paperwork I received from that contractor only confused things more until I called their east coast office from the Westin Wheeling on Thursday and found out that the job, was, indeed, burnt toast. Lovely. As a result of this, I decided to drink a lot more than was my wont over the weekend. It didn't help.

As a result of my already frazzled nerves and tacit need to crawl into a deep hole somewhere, a lot of other things got also badly frazzled as a result, such as my run for the Phandemonium Board; granted, I'm not much of a public speaker in the first place, but this was made all the more difficult because I was so verklempt at that point that I could've done a better job if I hit myself upside the head with a spanner wrench and just winged it. I could've also backed out at the last minute, but quitting at that late a stage even for the best of non-emergency reasons is still quitting, period.

 For another, a MIB roommate who's also second in charge of kid's programming got screamed at by another staffer for making noise. On a party floor. During party hours. The verbal abuse got so bad that he now refuses to attend or staff Capricon unless this person either publicly apologizes or resigns. It also means MIB probably won't be held at Capricon again since my roommate is central to the running of the party as well. We weren't going to hold it next year due to LonCon (which - quelle surprise - costs a lot of $$$ to attend), but it appears that we might end up having to take the party on the road to another con until this situation is resolved to our satisfaction.

I'm still going to Capricon 34, regardless. I haven't missed a Capricon since 1984 and have no intention of doing so now, especially since I'm on the concom and have been helping out in Anime since the mid-90's. Even so, this year was a mess. It also serves up more proof that my overall disdain for con drama is extremely well-founded.

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In Memoriam on behalf of a friend of mine.
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Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to those who read this page, regardless of your beliefs.

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Just when you thought that the badly written episode of Hot l Baltimore that the Purple Hotel debacle has become was nearing its end, another ugly surprise rises up and bites you in places you should've kept better protected:

The owner of the abandoned landmark known as the Purple Hotel in Lincolnwood has until the end of the year to submit plans for its revival, or the village could renew efforts in January to tear it down.

Village officials heard some of the plans for the site at 4500 W. Touhy Ave. during a Dec. 4 meeting, and are scheduled for another update on Dec. 18.

Jake Weiss, president of Weiss Properties, is working with architect Jackie Koo on plans for the site. A principal partner in North Capital Group, which purchased the hotel and the surrounding 8.5 acres for $8.3 million in June, Weiss told village officials that he plans to turn the site into a boutique hotel with 208 rooms, a roof garden, fitness center, spa, and a 41,000-square-foot building that will house restaurants and a banquet hall.

He played a video and brought drafts of his plans and vision for the property. But he has not formally submitted those plans for zoning approval.

Lincolnwood trustees questioned him about financing and whether he plans to open an independent hotel or plant a "flag" for a chain out front.

"I don't know if you need a flag," Weiss said. "It's my preference to have a flag. It's finding the right flag. Once you sign a flag, you sign millions of dollars to get out of it."

Sure. this, of course, comes from the same guy who was perhaps just a wee bit off when he previously promised retail space equivalent to 40,000 square feet or better and then offerered up something far less extensive later on. And why is he already talking about getting out of a deal that was being offered up as a hypothetical?

Let's just say his attorney didn't come off as being particularly forthcoming concerning Weiss' plans, either:

Harold "Hal" W. Francke, a lawyer for Weiss, addressed the trustees' concerns during the meeting.

"It doesn't do us any good if as a board if you're not comfortable with this vision," he said. "Jake's in this position. He doesn't want to keep spending time on it. He's already invested $10 million into it. Just like you, he's hoping to get his flag."

He is? Funny, Weiss implied separately that he wasn't. Ah, well. Different pages and all, I guess...

"He's prepared to move forward and make it a boutique hotel.

"We want to proceed," Francke continued. "We gave you a very detailed indication of what was done and what is to be done. We'll definitely get that in on time. We'll get very detailed information on what remains to be done for a very specific request."

Sure. Just like last time when he missed a deadline for a simple demolition permit, right?

Lastly, what would any of this be without the introduction of a lovely bit of substance-free fluff from Mr. Weiss?

"What's interesting is that there are so many individuals connected to the site," Weiss said later in an interview. "When you have a base of individuals connected to the site, that goes a long way. Maybe we can put together a website where people share their stories. I want the public to be part of the renaissance."

Wow. Just wow.

Paragraphs like that make you wonder if Weiss ever moonlights as a public relations flack. Or a high-powered advertising exec.

Regardless of what he does in his spare time, here's hoping that Weiss makes something actually happen as a consequence of that hard December 31st deadline. As you can tell from this Fancyclopedia 3 link, the place was quite central to the development of Chicago fandom in the past; It'd be a real pity if the Lincolnwood Village Board and NCP just continued to let it rot.

Windycon 39

Nov. 8th, 2012 07:15 pm
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I'm going, barring some completely weird shit happening between now and tomorrow. Sleep tight, and don't let the zombies bite.

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Seriously, can somebody inform Jake Weiss as to how disingenuous the following argument concerning his inability to file for a demolition order comes off as? To wit:

Jake Weiss, president of Weiss Properties, Inc., and the current owner of the Purple Hotel site, agreed last month at a (Lincolnwood) Committee of the Whole meeting to move forward with a demolition permit for the destruction of two buildings on the property — the Suite 20/20 building on Touhy Avenue and the one-story strip-retail building on Lincoln Avenue, which is said to be laden with asbestos.

Weiss was instructed to show proof of the filed permit applications by Oct. 2, but his attorney, speaking on behalf of Weiss at the Oct. 2 Board of Trustees meeting, said the documents had not been filed because his client was not properly informed of the deadline and could not be reached because he was out of the office for the Jewish holiday, Sukkot.

Uh, no. Sorry. I'm not buying it. Does Weiss seriously want people to think he's just that daft? Or that he runs Weiss Properties as a one-man show completely bereft of any subordinates who could have filed that demolition permit on his behalf?

The Chicago Tribune mentioned what the potential consequences were of further inaction in a piece published on September 26th (and quoted here); Weiss knew as early as September 19th about the situation, and yet he still failed to file that order despite the fact that an extension needed to be granted at the village board's October 2nd board meeting for Weiss' plans to continue. 

I'm also afraid that some people are missing the point entirely:

(But) Mayor Jerry Turry argued that Weiss had been compliant up to that point.

“Let’s characterize the things they have done, because they have shown good faith,” Turry said.

He has? Really? This is news to me; apparently, Turry has somehow forgotten that Weiss' promise of adding anywhere from 40,000 to 75,000 square feet of retail space to the PH was downsized to less than 20,000; in other words, if this isn't intended to look like a bait-and-switch that Weiss ran on the village in order to buy that property cheaply in auction, what is it intended to look like?

On top of all this, Weiss has apparently decided that his new-found redevelopment opportunity isn't even important enough to file urgent paperwork for on time despite the fact that he could lose his chance at getting anything out of that decrepit old wreck if the village board were to finally lose their patience. How is that a sign of "good faith", exactly?

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I have no idea why Kommandant B. pulled this stunt a few days ago. None. At all. "What stunt?", you may ask. well, ask no more:

Late last month, an outrageous pro-Bachmann attack ad helped Jim Graves raise $8,000. Then, last week, her appearance at a Lakeview, Illinois synagogue caused a 400 percent week-over-week increase in Chicago-area contributions to her opponent's campaign, according to Adam Graves, Jim's son and campaign manager.

Bachmann's appearance at the synagogue came on the eve of Yom Kippur and during a service "celebrating Israel's openness to the gay and lesbian community," the Chicago Tribune reports. So, as you'd expect, worshipers were less than thrilled to see one of America's most notorious gay rights opponents in their midst. (The Tribune contacted Bachmann's campaign and congressional office to try and figure out why she was at the synagogue, but never heard back.)

The temptation to just go "uh...what?" and walk away from this little chunk of Weird is there, of course, but I'm not really inclined to do that; consider this nugget from Mike the Mad Biologist instead:

The only thing that makes sense is that she (or her staff) read that Anshe Emet is affiliated with the Conservative movement (which has nothing to do with conservative politics, and most Conservative congregations tilt left, sometimes strongly so).

Well, yeah. Perhaps. My own guess is a bit different, though: considering that Bachmann is still desperate to curry favor with Jewish voters through her usual "Obama is a S3kr1Tt MUSL1M!!1!!" nonsense (a recent example can be found here), this odd little spectacle of her showing up at a synagogue at a really, really inappropriate time (not so much because of the the holiday. of course; the theme of the service is a different story) was probably a desperate attempt to carry on with that "mission".

Or maybe she really is nuts.

Take your pick.

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The saga of the Purple Hotel (former site of Six Capricons as well as at least one Duckon and a couple of Reactors) continues to be one of those stories that goes on for so long and follows such a torturous path that you're left wondering if the damn thing will ever end. That end may well be in sight, though. Witness the following from the Chicago Tribune:

Jake Weiss, of Skokie-based Weiss Properties, said he is trying to entice Marriott to ink a deal for the hotel before he can talk about other opportunities on the 8.5-acre triangular site.

Weiss was called before trustees Sept. 19 for an update on the progress, having recently missed a requirement outlined in his agreement with the village to postpone demolition.

The conversation was also informed by a stinging letter recently issued by the village's Economic Development Commission, which accused Weiss of a bait-and-switch between his original vision for the property and what he is marketing to prospective tenants.

The letter said Weiss Properties and partner North Capital Group originally promised to 75,000 square feet of retail space on the site, which also includes two adjacent properties, but was now looking at less than 20,000 square feet.

We "believe a significant retail component is critical to the success of this development," said the letter, approved by four of the five EDC members. "The Commission is both concerned and cannot support these apparent changes reducing the magnitude of the retail component for this development."

Interesting. A previous piece from the Skokie Patch (quoted here, of course) notes that the North Capital/Weiss Properties development plan initially offered 40,000 square feet of retail space. Did Weiss shade the truth even more than he was accused of doing in that Patch article? Perhaps. But that's a moot point right now, as the following indicates:

If Weiss fails to follow the agreement, he is bound by covenant to demolition the hotel, according to Village Attorney Steven Elrod.

That being said...

Look, I have as much of a nostalgic feeling for the PH as anyone else who either attended or (in my case) started attending fan-run SF conventions back in the day. Its day is past, though; piss-poor management of the facility by its previous owner and a seeming lack of concern for multiple health code citations (and the fines they generated) caused it to close, and that same owner's incredible stubbornness kept it shut for over five years before someone coughed up enough money to purchase what has been an derelict commercial property for over half a decade. And now that developer is effectively telling Lincolnwood to drop their pants and bend over just like the previous crew did for years.

Is it any wonder why that thing is still sitting there like some long-dead giant insect that's been attacked and eaten from within by parasites?

I don't know how this will end, but knocking the building down and paving the site over would be a tender mercy at this point.
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The redevelopment of the Purple Hotel, it seems, has hit a very major snag. Quelle surprise:

Things became heated during a board meeting between the (Lincolnwood) EDC (Economic Development Commission) and (North Capital Group owner Jake) Weiss on Sept. 13. Among the concerns by the EDC was marketing material it received from North Capital Group that stated the redevelopment would have 18,700 square-feet of retail space, which is less than half of the 40,000 square-feet Weiss promised to deliver. There also were two other issues regarding the overall construction of the building as well.

Information regarding the dispute found on the village’s website reads:

While formal plans have yet to be submitted to the Village, members of the Economic Development Commission have received current marketing material for the site which raises concerns whether the retail element promised for the project is now being significantly diminished.

A concept site plan now being utilized to market the property, for instance, now identifies only 18,700 square feet for retail space in this development. Further, this new concept site plan being used to market the site, also replaces a multi‐story rotunda‐style building that was prominently shown on the cover of previous material provided the Village, with a single story 2,400 square foot drive‐thru facility at the very apex of Lincoln and Touhy. And to the west of the hotel building, the previously shown 40,000 square foot free‐standing retail building, is now shown in more recent marketing material, as only 10,000 square feet of retail.”

While no resolution was agreed upon at the end of the meeting, Weiss signed a tough agreement with Lincolnwood. Village officials can demolish the structure at 4500 Touhy Ave. if certain milestones or initiatives are not met.

Although I'm not willing to parade back and forth across the street from that derelict mess wearing a "I told you so!" sandwich board quite yet, my guess is that a whole lot of people on the EDC or the Village Board who were snowed by the entire "40,000 square feet" lie are now awaiting the arrival of their very own gross of "KICK ME!" signs.

Chicon 7!

Sep. 7th, 2012 04:04 pm
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Well, let's get the ultra-subjective crap out of the way first.

I enjoyed myself immensely at times, although the usual time subjectivity BS ("man, was that really five days?") did a lot to mitigate some of my enjoyment of it. Drank and partied too much, probably ate too little and paid the price for all of it (who doesn't?), but actually getting to see a Hugo Awards ceremony live after missing it in 1991 and 2000 was a gas. Later on, I helped with teardown/strike/move out/whatever through Tuesday despite the fact I was recovering from Ye Olde Festivities in the usual brittle fashion. At least I didn't suffer from the Body Hangover Without End that I had in '91; the less said about that, the better. 

On to the only category I voted in: novels.

I tried to find a library or used copy of the winner - Jo Walton's Among Others - I really did. But I'm too fiscally "meh" to afford a Kindle in order to download it or buy a print copy, and it wasn't available at the Chicago Public Library branch I thought it was (translation: %@#%@!!!). The same goes for George R.R. Martin's A Dance With Dragons , although the sheer length of the book ("you can stop writing now, George. No. Really. Stop!") seemed really daunting considering that the nominees were announced in April. As far as the ones I did vote for (under a ranked system), this is how I voted and why: 

1) Embassytown by China Mieville: sure, the prose style is complicated and occasionally hard to blast through at a speed-reader tempo: so what? The initial concepts are highly intriguing, the story turns more and more grim while presenting a hopeful ending that doesn't reek of a mysterious army from The Free People's State of Utoputania coming over the hills to rescue our fair protagonist or her friends (?), and it just seemed the best of the three to me. Which is not to knock the following: 

2) Deadline by Mira Grant: No, I know it's not Feed. No, I didn't read Feed previous to it and make the mistake of taking my enthusiasm for the first book and transferring it to the second. I read this as a stand alone, and especially enjoyed the aspect of making character interaction much more important than the Continuing Zombie Apocalypse those characters are facing. What got me was a deus ex machina that I won't go into for fear of spoilers. It's recommended, though, and unlike Embassytown you can read this thing really fast.

3) Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey (AKA Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck). Like Deadline, it's a fast-paced read that keeps the action hopping while giving you a fairly serious view of the fictional world "Corey" created. Unfortunately, just like Deadline, it possesses a deus ex machina that got on my nerves far worse than the one presented in Deadline. Still, this is the beginning of a series, and there's room for improvement, not that this debut is anything to sneeze at. Recommended.

I'm sure there's more (such as how good some of the parties, such as London in 2014 [congratulations, BTW] and Barfleet were), but I've written enough on this subject for now. Feel free to send your letters of complaint to the email on this LJ page or my Facebook page. Matter of fact, I'm looking forward to it. Mwwwwwuhahahahahahahahaha!

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It doesn't surprise me that the Chicago area's most recent celebrity-grade murderer would probably not win too many prizes for humility or social graces; Drew Peterson has always come off as a terminally smug, preening creep (either before his arrest or after) and if you could convict people of murder on that basis, he'd be in real trouble. But that's not how the justice system works. What apparently did do him in was a combination of the their belief in Stacy Peterson's hearsay testimony and a certain decision to cover up the crime that Peterson probably shouldn't have made:

Jurors said they thought it was odd that Drew Peterson cleaned the bathtub the day after Kathleen Savio’s body was discovered.

"That is unusual; they did say murderers sometimes clean up afterward," Teresa Mathews said. "It did seem unusual that he did it."

Yeah, playing the role of Mr. Clean around the scene where your wife "accidentally" died comes off as being just a bit suspicious, doesn't it?

The bruises on Savio’s body were also telling, Mathews said.

"There was too many bruises on too many parts of the body" for it to be an accidental fall, she said

"Her position in the tub, that's what dictated to us that it wasn't a fall," juror Jeremy Masters said.

Considering that these jurors were also dealing with a non-stop media circus from the word go and several embarassing incidents of the prosecution just plain screwing up (translation: potential mistrials), Peterson didn't escape with his smirk intact. Far from it.

The only question remaining is this: where is Stacy Peterson?
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A tribute to the Chicago jazz giant, from the surprising corner of Discover's Sean Carroll:

Von was absolutely unique, as a saxophonist and as a person. As a musician he managed to intermingle an astonishing variety of styles, from classic ballads to bebob all the way to free jazz, with more than a few things you would never hear anywhere else. Some thought that his playing was an acquired taste, full of skronks and trills and lighting-fast tempo changes. But once you “got it,” you could hear something in Von that you just couldn’t hear anywhere else. This isn’t just formerly-local pride talking; when John Coltrane left Miles Davis’s band in the 1950′s, Miles tried to get Von to replace him. But Von never left Chicago for more than a few days at a time.

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Done. And it took a mere 5-plus years to resolve this mess.

The Purple Hotel property was sold for $8.3 million in an auction Friday, paving the way for the long-stalled Lincolnwood development site to move forward.

North Capital Group and Weiss Properties Inc., both of Skokie, won the bidding on the 8½-acre site in an auction conducted at the Westin Chicago River North by New York-based Sheldon Good & Co., the auction company confirmed.

Erez Baver, North Capital's president, has said the group wants to do a mixed-use redevelopment of the high-traffic site at Touhy and Lincoln avenues.

The $20 million redevelopment plan would include a boutique hotel with banquet and meeting space, plus 40,000 to 60,000 square feet of retail space, he has said. Mr. Baver could not immediately be reached for comment Friday.

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