Trustees hear plans on former Purple Hotel site
by KEVIN GROSS
The Lincolnwood Village Board of Trustees heard from a developer their plans for a mixed-use development at the former Purple Hotel site, 4500-4560 W. Touhy Ave. and 7350 N. Lincoln Ave., at the Committee of the Whole meeting prior to the regular board meeting on March 20.
ZS Development cofounder Todd Zima showed a series of renderings highlighting a space with possible residential, hotel and retail uses at the site, with buildings surrounding an elevated civic courtyard covering underground parking and visible from neighboring streets and sidewalks.
Zima said that the site contains 75,000 to 100,000 potential square feet of retail space. However, in contrast to previous site developer North Capital Group that included no residential component in their proposal, Zima said that an emphasis on residential development would be essential to turn a profit and avoid over-reliance on commercial retail development.
"Basically, their missing piece was the residential component," Zima said. "Maybe turning down the amplitude dial of the retail side when things looked like they wouldn’t come in (could’ve) helped. These are lessons learned."
Any plans are preliminary and non-binding, as ZS Development does not own the site and is displeased with a village ordinance that would allow staff to submit purchase offers or condemn the site and solicit offers from other developers. Zima said that the ordinance has effectively frozen much of their progress.
"Acknowledge us as the project developer and some sort of a partner so that we can move forward with confidence and have our investors feel comfortable enough where they’re placing hard money into us," Zima said. "We’re not confident putting our money into a project where we might ultimately not have control and not be able to deliver on the back end of the project."
ZS Development chief executive offer Mike Sieman said that the village should restart the Lincoln-Touhy TIF District, which has dropped by millions in equalized assessed value since it was established 7 years ago.
Village manager Tim Wiberg said that he is unsure which method trustees would choose to fund the acquisition of the site or to help finance ZS Development, although he said its unlikely the village would levy a general ordinance bond.
"Why should the average homeowner that lives down at Devon and Lincoln be on the hook for a GO bond for a development at Touhy and Lincoln?" Wiberg said. "Most municipalities wouldn’t normally pledge its full faith of credit for a private development. You would typically levy (a GO bond) for a village wide infrastructure project, or an improvement that would benefit the entire community."
Sieman also said that the company would pursue federally guaranteed Housing and Urban Development loans, which would be used to help finance the residential component of the project.
Sieman said that HUD loans could allow, "as much as an 85 percent loan to cost (ratio)" by minimizing the equity requirement and maximizing loan size. Zima said that HUD loans would reduce incentives required from the village by 20 to 30 percent, although it would also require a minimum 12-month waiting period from the loan application to closing.
"If we proceed with eminent domain that’s going to be a year’s process in the court, at least. Either option you’re looking at is not happening overnight. I think the board is well aware of this," Wiberg said. "A project of this magnitude is going to be a long term process."
Sieman said that, "A third option would be for the village to provide a list of acceptable developers so we may either hire a fee developer or attempt to sell to a developer acceptable to all parties."
Wiberg said that trustees might vote at a meeting in the near future on whether to pursue a typical development process with ZS Development or to follow through with the ordinance and bid to current site owner Romspen.
At the regular meeting, the board approved code variations and consolidation of the lots at 3900-3910 W. Devon Ave., to allow extra parking at the site of the Sacred Learning Center, currently under construction and slated for completion in about a half year.
Sayeed Shariff, executive director of the mosque and Muslim education center, said that they would demolish and convert the former Danziger Kosher Catering building at 3910 W. Devon Ave. into a parking lot with about 75 spaces in order to better accommodate peak traffic hours, particularly during Friday prayer services.
"The last thing we would want is to not be a good neighbor to the surrounding neighborhood and to all of Lincolnwood, and for people to park in the residential neighborhood," Shariff said. "This is a way to self contain."
The village adopted amendments to its personnel policies, including that pre-employment drug screening and psychological testing will be conducted for certain positions, that temporary and seasonal employees are now defined by a 6-month rather than 9-month period of work, and that government workplaces now carry a zero-tolerance policy against harassment, even for "conduct that may not rise to the level of unlawful harassment from a legal perspective."