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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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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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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.

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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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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.

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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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On May 8th, 2010 I walked past the Purple Hotel on Touhy and Lincoln and - taking notice of the real estate signs that had been posted over three and a half years since I attended Reactor there  - said to myself, "Self, if the hovel that's up for sale for a ridiculously high price is left untouched by either a construction or demolition crew in two years, you win the right to buy a nice bottle of scotch for yourself. If not, you get to walk into L Woods and drink a toast to the memory of the first place you ever attended a fan-run SF convention back in 1985." 

It's now May 10th, 2012, of course. Therefore, I won. Sort of.

Since there's an impending auction by yet another real estate company that's looking to deal the PH tomorrow (details can be found here, here and here),  I'll eventually be picking up a bottle of something strong - even if I have to go a cheaper route than the single malt I originally fancied.
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First it was the Chicago Sheraton Northwest. Now it's this:

Vacant since 2007 and full of mold, the Lincolnwood landmark locals call The Purple Hotel may be saved from the wrecking ball by a North Shore developer.

When you have an architecturally significant property with so much history and nostalgia, you can really do some wonderful things with it," said Jake Weiss of Weiss Properties, a Skokie development firm that specializes in resurrecting vacant properties.

Weiss has partnered with North Capital Group, which recently bought the hotel's mortgage note, to possibly redevelop the long-shuttered building as a boutique hotel with a convention center and retail space.

But first, Weiss said his team must navigate a series of legal complications: A bankruptcy involving the hotel's current owner, a foreclosure and a judge's Aug. 1 order that gave the village of Lincolnwood permission to tear down what some call an eyesore at Touhy and Lincoln avenues.


An "eyesore"? I suppose I have to bring up that facet of the story up as well...

The Purple Hotel had a few owners after the Hyatt company left, briefly becoming a Radisson, then a Ramada. It's been owned since 2004 by Village Resorts Inc.

In 2007, frustrated with building and health problems, Lincolnwood got a court order to have the hotel closed until its 30-plus violations were remedied, officials said.

"The building posed a threat," said Lincolnwood Village Manager Timothy Wiberg. In 2005 and 2006, patrons began complaining about rodents, mold and lack of sanitary conditions, Wiberg said.


Having stayed in that hovel two years in a row (for the two Reactors that were held there in 2005 and 2006) well after Capricon quit the place in 1991, I can testify to the factual basis of that mold problem (in the form of a black glob of the stuff that was bigger than a golf ball and seemed to be eating the writing desk in the room I was staying in in '06) and the only thing I can say to Mr. Weiss is that I want no part of what he and the rest of his company were smoking when they came up with this deal.

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Granted, this is a lot less fun that your average game of Gauntlet. David Roeder writes:

The place has so many code violations that in February the village got the legal right to raze it unless owner Donald Bae made repairs. None has occurred, said village Administrator Timothy Wiberg, so the town is preparing specifications for demolition bids.

But that’s probably not Bae’s biggest concern. His lender, First Midwest Bank, wants to foreclose on him and is trying to sell the unpaid mortgage note. The buyer then could be in position to take control of the site, which Lincolnwood officials want redeveloped.

Podolsky Northstar Corfac International is the agent for the note sale. Senior Vice President Adam Tarantur said he hopes a winning bidder will be selected by the end of the month. He said Bae owes $4.6 million, counting penalties.

Bae is a Korean business leader whose conduct in this matter has been strange. He has listed the property for sale with a $25.8 million price, a figure that real estate experts say is so high that it deters serious inquiries. Rather than sell it for whatever he can get, Bae now risks losing the property altogether. He could not be reached for comment.

Color me unsurprised that he doesn't have a comment.

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The foreclosure follies concerning the Purple Hotel (former site of Capricons 5-7, 9-11 and Reactor in 2005 and 2006, among other fannish things) continue with no apparent end in sight:

First Midwest Bank, current holder of two mortgage notes on the Purple Hotel in Lincolnwood, has put them up for sale.

The bank chose Podolsky Northstar CORFAC International and the brokerage team of Randy D. Podolsky, managing principal, and Adam J. Tarantur, senior vice president, to find a buyer for the 5.28-acres site at the corner of Lincoln and Touhy Avenues.

A Cook County judge confirmed last February a consent decree declaring the building at 4500 W. Touhy Ave. a safety hazard.

The judge also granted the village permission to tear down the building in August at the property owner’s expense if he hadn’t done so — or fixed a multitude of problems that resulted in building code violations.

Donald Bae of Skokie, the hotel’s owner, has been seeking buyers for the property for years without success.

The bank filed a foreclosure suit against Bae, after he failed to repay the loans at maturity.

Now the bank is seeking purchasers who realize the value of the underlying real estate that secures the notes, Podolsky said.

The "value of the underlying real estate" would seem to be somewhat...er...obscured by the highly problematic building that stands on top of it as well as the 31 code violations that played a large part in causing it to close down in January 2007. As I've pointed out previously, I went to the last fannish-oriented convention it hosted (Reactor in November 2006) and saw what the place was like. It wasn't pretty.

Whatever party buys the notes will have the opportunity to either own the property if the notes are not redeemed, or to obtain whatever value from the sale of the notes, he added.

“Lincolnwood’s consent decree to knock down the building, if the village wishes to do that, would have an (negative) impact on the value of the land,” Podolsky said.

“But if a buyer was identified very soon, that person could speak to the village about the demolition of the building. However, the village’s rights are independent of the lender’s rights, so just because someone buys the notes, it does not mean the village would be willing to wait.”

I'd love to tell Mr. Podolsky what "waiting" for Donald Bae and Co. to sell the building got the Village of Lincolnwood in the first place, but I suspect he knows; like everyone else, he's just unwilling to say the words "zip", "zilch" or "nada" out loud.

As usual, I have to wonder why the village didn't just throw eminent domain into the mix, since paying for the property and its demolition probably wouldn't have been nearly as pricy as when it was open since any market value the PH had probably declined steeply when it started turning into an under-maintained - and  ultimately abandoned - wreck. Whatever the reason, the village board - and the rest of the village - will probably continue to be stuck with the "Purple Hulk" in one form or another until my two-year wager comes to full maturity. If they do away with it before May 8th, 2012, I'll drink a toast to the place at L. Woods across the street and have fond memories of SF conventions past, including the first legitimate fan-run one (Capricon 5, in 1985) I ever went to. If it's still standing, I'll be doing it with a bottle of single malt scotch I'm buying for the occasion instead.

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No, not that one. He was taken out and shot by Smurfs wearing Space 1999 uniforms or something. I mean the Purple Hotel, and...

Oops. Too late.

As stated in the LoopNet notice, sealed bids were being "accepted from now (whenever 'now' was; the place has been closed from January 2007, after all) until June 15, 2011". So perhaps someone has snapped it up. Or maybe not:

A Cook County judge signed a consent order letting Lincolnwood authorities tear down the building as of Aug. 1 unless the owner fixes 31 code violations, some involving mold and rodent infestations and asbestos hazards. Attorney Steven Elrod, representing Lincolnwood, said he hopes the court order will spur a sale of the property.

The hotel at 4500 W. Touhy is owned by Village Resorts Inc., which is controlled by Donald Bae. A real estate firm has been trying to sell the 8.5-acre site for an asking price of $25.8 million.

Bae and his attorney could not be reached for comment.

Now, this Sun-Times piece is dated July 18th, but it's not like this David Roeder-penned article is all that different than the Benjamin Legal Services blurb here, the Curbed Chicago piece here, the Skokie Patch piece here or the Pat Krochmal article for the Sun-Times' Pioneer Press wing here. They're all bad news for Donald Bae, since the majority of them list a August 1st expiration date on the fungus-infested wreck that used to host Capricon back in the 80's and early 90's and hosted Reactor (among others) as late as 2005 and 2006. It's just astounding to me that Bae (who's apparently owned the place since 1993 or so) chooses to hold on to a disused, rotting hotel that he has neither the will to sell or the stomach to renovate. He's already been fined multiple times and will be dinged for the cost of litigation with the village of Lincolnwood when this weird little saga comes to a close, so why not cut your losses? 

Anybody who wants to take a stab at explaining this can contact me through the usual means on my LJ page unless you're getting just as bored with the answer as I am. Granted, I used to have a soft spot for this hotel since I attended my first legitimate, fan-run SF convention (Capricon 5) in 1985. Now, it's just begging to be put out of its misery.

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Sometimes you just have to scrape for information like this.

The Lincolnwood BoT has hired a consultant to help create a tax increment finance (TIF) district in order to dispose of the Purple Hotel and its surrounding environs, but the funniest part of the Lincolnwood Review piece has to be this:

Village Attorney Steven M. Elrod stated in a Jan. 8 letter to Donald Bae, owner of Village Resorts, that the hotel site, located in a "highly visible and heavily populated area" of Lincolnwood, has deteriorated into "a blighted, dangerous and unsafe condition." In that letter, Elrod also referenced warnings in two earlier letters (Nov. 11, 2008, and July 15, 2009), that detailed the code violations on the property.
 

Elrod asked the court for fines of $1,000 per violation per day since Nov. 11, 2008, the date the owner was first notified of the violations; the cost of corrective action or demolition of the 293-room, seven-story structure; as well as court costs and attorneys fees.

Lincolnwood also sued Bae in September of 2006 because of mold and environmental problems caused by the deteriorating state of the hotel, and therefore, prevented the building from being inhabited, Elrod added.

(Personal note: anybody who had been to Reactor shortly after that lawsuit was filed knows firsthand of the mold problem - especially since the writing desk in my room was being eaten by a blob of the stuff.)

However, instead of repairing the structure, which was built in 1960, Bae closed it in January of 2007 and put it up for sale.

And, unsuprisingly, there were no takers. There probably still aren't.

That's one incredible slide from the way the place was when I went to my first Capricon there in 1985.

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It's funny how going up to Lincolnwood on a routine Saturday can clear some old fannish mysteries up so quickly.

Dunno how long the Forefront Properties signs have been up, but that brokerage is trying to peddle the very, very dead Purple Hotel. the old Suits 20/20 building next to it and probably that equally defunct office building on the northwest corner of Lincoln and Touhy as well. 

My personal over/under for sale of this mess is two years' time; granted, it's a no-prize bet, but I'm assuming that a lack of commercial real estate credit liquidity and inaction/foot-dragging on the part of the former owners will make May 8th, 2012 a dull day for contractors in the area. There are still plenty (over 20!) of unoccupied - but still usable - office buildings out near where I work, so a combination demolition/new construction project starting at $28 million seems a bit...inopportune. 

still want a brick from that place, regardless.

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