Perhaps the most recognizable building in Lincolnwood is also the village's biggest headache.
After 45 years in business, the Purple Hotel closed in 2007 when it was found to be in violation of more than 30 building code violations. Its garish purple skeleton has stood abandoned at 4500 W. Touhy Ave. ever since.
But a Dec. 2 resolution passed by the village's Joint Review Board represents the latest step in a series of actions to get rid of the eyesore and reinvent downtown Lincolnwood.
The resolution supports establishing a Tax Increment Finance (TIF) district encompassing the 293-room hotel and its 8.5-acre site. A public hearing on the matter is set for Jan. 20 in the council chambers at Lincolnwood Village Hall, 6900 N. Lincoln Ave.
The property's owner—Donald Bae of the broadcast firm KM Communications Inc.—is in the middle of a lawsuit with the village, which wants him to either address the building's health violations or demolish it. The village previously sued Bae in 2006 to correct what it called "dangerous and hazardous conditions," including mold and an insect infestation. When Bae failed to remedy the health code violations, a judge ordered the hotel to close in January 2007.
So while Community Development Director Tim Clarke says the TIF is designed to "entice and encourage redevelopment of the site," others have put it more bluntly.
The hotel will most likely be razed by its next owner, said Dave LeCavalier, real estate agent for the property. "I just don't see how the numbers can work," he said.
The key number is $25.8 million. That's how much LeCavalier's agency, ForeFront Properties, is asking for the site. Two years ago, Northbrook-based Inland Real Estate Acquisitions reportedly offered $27 million in a joint-venture with TMK Development. That deal was abandoned when the economy crashed.
"It's top dollar, but it's also a top-level property that's unique," LeCavalier said. "Time will tell if someone can find value in the property or not."
LeCavalier said he had already received "well over 100 calls" about the property.
He said many of these were general curiosity, which is little surprise given the building's storied history.
Teamsters leader Allen Dorfman—a close associate of Jimmy Hoffa—was murdered in the Purple Hotel parking lot in 1983. As the chief prosecution witness in the 2008 corruption trial of political fundraiser Tony Rezko, Stuart Levine testified he had engaged in all-day, drug-fueled parties in the hotel with high-profile guests.
Throughout its four and a half decades at the corner of North Lincoln and West Touhy avenues, the hotel has been a Hyatt, Radisson and Ramada, only to officially adopt its longtime moniker "The Purple Hotel" in 2004 under independent management.
"It's very frustrating to stand on the sidelines and watch it deteriorate," said Al Klairmont, president of Imperial Realty, which owns the building on West Touhy Avenue near the site. "Like everyone else, I'm anxious to see an intelligent development on the [property]."
As if a consolation for its neighborly patience, Imperial's property at 4433 W. Touhy Ave. might be included in the TIF district aimed at rehabilitating the Purple Hotel.
"I had a grandiose idea to rehabilitate and grow the site [at 4433 W. Touhy], and just as I introduced a rendering it occurred to everybody that we had just entered a very deep recession," Klairmont said.
With some luck, the TIF funding could partially revive these plans, but "a TIF is not an automatic panacea," he said. The plans included an underground parking garage and a mid-rise condominium with ground-level retail space.
Imperial's site, which houses a Republic Bank, is "visually kind of a blight on the community," said Clarke.
Tuffy Auto Service, located near the hotel, also could fall within the purview of the proposed TIF district. "Tuffy is a lucrative business, but it's in the wrong place as far as the village is concerned," said James Berger, president of the Lincolnwood Chamber of Commerce.
He said the property could be part of Lincolnwood's larger vision to transform the area into a downtown center for the village.
Clarke said Tuffy Auto's property could someday be demolished for green-space. "There is some possibility that sometime in the future Lincolnwood would acquire that site," he said, although no plans exist at this time.
Robert Anderson, manager of the Lincolnwood Tuffy Auto, deferred inquiries to corporate headquarters, which could not be reached for comment at press time.
The boundaries of the TIF are still being amended, said Clarke, who keeps a purple brick from the hotel in his office at Village Hall. Whether or not the proposed district will include Republic Bank and Tuffy Auto, its 23-year lifespan could see enough redevelopment to overhaul the shuttered Purple Hotel property.
While the hotel itself may be long gone by then, its local lore is sure to survive.