Another developer plans to buy vacant site of Purple Hotel
by KEVIN GROSS
The Lincolnwood Village Board of Trustees at its meeting May 1 approved a resolution allowing Tucker Development Group to develop the former Purple Hotel site, 4500-4560 W. Touhy Ave., without imposing penalties to bring the vacant site up to village code.
Highland Park-based Tucker Development has entered into a contract with property owner Romspen to purchase the site. Tucker Development chief executive officer Richard Tucker expressed his desire to purchase the site to trustees at the Committee of the Whole meeting on April 17.
"We would ask that so long as we are working in good faith with the community and negotiating through the process … and we’re still in contract, that you not proceed with any condemnation proceedings or other such matters," Tucker said.
Previously on March 6, Lincolnwood passed an ordinance authorizing it to fine Romspen for site deterioration and to bid for the site or begin the eminent domain process despite ongoing talks with ZS Development, the previous interested developer, who has since withdrawn from the project.
Village manager Tim Wiberg said ZS never provided the village with a specific reason for withdrawing as contract purchaser, although "it’s obvious they reported that village actions to potentially purchase the property had a really deadening effect on their ability to secure capital, because of the surrounding uncertainty."
Trustee Jesal Patel said that ZS’s short history of work might have affected their access to reliable capital sources.
"I had never heard of ZS before they came forward because the partners didn’t really exist as an entity working together prior to coming forward," Patel said.
Tucker said his company’s credentials include approximately "$1 billion worth of development, about 10 million square feet of mixed-use retail," including a block-sized 100,000 square-foot retail and condo building at 900 W. Randolph St. in Chicago’s Fulton Market District and the former Lincolnwood Dominick’s grocery store at McCormick Boulevard and Pratt Avenue.
For the Purple Hotel site, Tucker said that the company would use ideas from a village-commissioned site study as the basis for a mixed-use development. The study recommended retail space, a hotel at the northwest corner, and residential units in the upper floors of the higher-density structures.
Tucker would contract with Chicago-based architecture firm CallisonRTKL and hopes to break ground on development within a year following construction loan applications and architectural studies, with construction duration estimated at 18 months.
Wiberg said that the village had yet to submit a site purchase offer before Tucker Development came forward, although staff discussed the issue in closed session meetings and were "very close to ready to make an offer."
The village retains the option to clean the site and fine the property owners if a development application is not presented to the village by July 1.
"We are all very sensitive to the deplorable state the site has been in for years," Wiberg said. "With Tucker, we tell them ‘time is of the essence, you guys have got to move because this community has put up with this nonsense for way too long.’"
At the Committee of the Whole meeting on May 1 trustees indicated intent to pursue a new and cheaper water supply agreement with the City of Evanston, following the expiration of a 10-year purchase agreement with Chicago at the end of 2018.
Evanston water rates are projected at $1.44 per 1,000 gallons by 2019, with projected rates increasing to $1.82 per 1,000 gallons by 2022 to account for Evanston water infrastructure construction. By contrast, water rates increased from $1.33 at the beginning of the Chicago agreement to a rate of $3.94 per 1,000 gallons coming into effect in July.
The agreement would last for 39 years, with Lincolnwood maintaining the option of contract exit clauses. A new water transmission line to connect with the Evanston water system would be required, which could be completed by 2020.
High-end cost estimates account for $10.5 million including pipe construction, studies and various easement and permit fees, according to public works director Andrew Letson. At those projections Lincolnwood would pay $710,000 annually for 20 years to service project bond debt and interest, which could still result in about $500,000 to $600,000 in annual water savings.
It’s currently undecided where savings would be distributed, although Wiberg indicated a possibility that the village would maintain consumer water rates until 2023 and spend the savings on infrastructure projects such as street resurfacing or replacing nearly century-old water mains.
"If we didn’t have this unique opportunity to save this significant money through purchase of water, we’d be in a situation where we’d have to raise our rates significantly to pay for projects," Wiberg said.
The village board adopted the operating budget for fiscal year 2018-19 of $41.9 million, which is a 21 percent increase from the $34.7 million budget for the current fiscal year. The increase accounts for capital projects such as the Evanston water line or a North Shore Channel stormwater sewer.
The budget accounts for a 2.1 percent property tax increase and newly increased $500 towing fees in driving under the influence of alcohol cases, a $10 increase in annual vehicle sticker fees, and increases of $100 per ambulance fee for nonresidents.