The chances of a wrecking ball bringing an end to Lincolnwood’s Purple Hotel are growing slimmer, but the future of the infamous property remains unclear, even if it’s renovated.
At Tuesday’s Lincolnwood board meeting, trustees moved unanimously to once again push back demolition of the famed property, as an agreement with a Skokie developer seems close. However, there are no guarantees that a proposed retail complex will be developed and if it is, it will be an expensive venture for the property owners.
“It simply is delaying or postponing demolition, that is the essence of this agreement,” Lincolnwood village attorney Steven Elrod said Tuesday night.
In March, the board voted to postpone demolition of the property, which has become an eyesore at the intersection of Lincoln and Touhy avenues, as Skokie developer Jake Weiss proposed that his team could renovate the site. Restoring the property, not razing it, is a popular notion among the neighbors for both environmental and economic reasons.
For the last month the village board negotiated with Weiss on a short term agreement culminating with the pact agreed to Tuesday night. The question now becomes if the Weiss group gains control of the other two parcels – one a former discount men’s suit warehouse - on the lot at a bankruptcy hearing in May. If that does not occur, demolition of the property once again becomes a possibility.
“We kept all our options open for demolition and we guaranteed the safety of the property until the bankruptcy sale so I think all those were positive steps,” said Trustee Lawrence Elster.
Among the provisions of the agreement include that the Weiss group which includes North Capital Group of Skokie, be willing to provide security for the property, board up broken up windows, install a fence and remove all combustible materials.
“We are very pleased that the village has committed to working with us to bring our vision for the site to fruition,” Weiss said. “We feel we wanted to accommodate the village to make sure this process happened. The village had some legitimate concerns and so we addressed them.”
But what has happened thus far does not necessarily mean Weiss and North Capital can start up the jackhammers on construction.
The next major step in the process occurs May 11, when the three properties that compose the 8.5-acre site (the hotel, the former Suits 20/20 building on Touhy Avenue and an office building on Lincoln Avenue) are part of an auction sale as the property is in bankruptcy court. The Weiss group got the note on hotel in 2011 and is now seeking control the other two parcels, which is a condition of the village board, as trustees only want to work with one ownership group.
Weiss is optimistic that he will be successful in May and he said he has already spent “seven figures” on the hotel as the first steps of the project that he envisions as a mix of a hotel and retail development including a restaurant. Weiss now believes a total renovation could cost $30 million.
In recent weeks, the Weiss team had tainted water removed from the basement in another troubling and expensive sign of the spiking nature of the cost of the project. He says he does not have “buyer’s remorse” yet he concedes the proposal may not be the winner he thought it would be at first.
“Looking at the deal today if I hadn’t already committed to it, it would be a much more difficult decision,” Weiss said in terms appropriate for today’s MLB Opening Day. “We still believe in the project and we still believe it is a winner but sometimes you have to be happy with a double or triple instead of a home run.”
The near term questions aside, the prospect of the Purple Hotel coming back to life as a viable village entity is cheery news for some members of the board.
“I’m thrilled,” said Trustee Thomas Heidtke. “This has been a long time coming. The property has been a blight on Lincolnwood for way too long.”
Heidtke added, “Personally I don’t care if the building stays or goes. I don’t see it as an icon. I see it as a big purple building. The plan he presented to us he can save considerable money by rehabbing the hotel. So if he can do that and it fits into our plan, why not let him keep the building?”