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Developer Wants To Restore, Revive Lincolnwood's Purple Hotel

LINCOLNWOOD, Ill. (CBS) -- The demolition of the Purple Hotel in Lincolnwood has been anticipated for nearly five years, but now an investor from Skokie wants to restore and preserve it.

Crain's Chicago Business reported last week that Erez Baver of Skokie-based North Capital Group planned to complete the purchase of the defaulted mortgage loan on the hotel by Dec. 31.

Baver plans to preserve the hotel at 4500 W. Touhy Ave. in Lincolnwood, which would be renovated and expanded to include new retail, Crain's reported. Baver also wants to add convention and meeting space and "make (the Purple Hotel) a destination," according to Crain's.

Baver tells Crain's the building has "so much history and so many memories" that it should be preserved. He hopes to turn it into a boutique hotel operated by a national brand, with convention space for up to 800 people, the newspaper reported.

But some legal hurdles stand in the way of Baver's plans. Current hotel owners Kun Chae Bae and Donald Bae have filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, and thus have blocked a foreclosure suit by First Midwest Bank N.A., Crain's reported. The bank has agreed to sell Baver the outstanding mortgage loan, the newspaper reported.

The bankruptcy filing could also allow the Baes to go ahead with having the hotel demolished, along with buildings on two adjacent plots of land, then auction off all three parcels, Crain's said.

Baver said he would not be interested in a development on the site if the hotel were torn down, Crain's reported.

The hotel has been closed since January 2007, and the Village of Lincolnwood won a court order earlier this year to have it torn down at will.

The 293-room hotel opened as the Lincolnwood Hyatt House in 1960. Legend has it that the blue bricks were supposed to be used for the exterior, but due to either a miscommunication or a manufacturing error, construction crews ended up with purple bricks instead, the Globe Traveler blog reported.

The Chicago Tribune says Barry Manilow, Roberta Flack and Perry Como were among the guests at the hotel over the years.

The hotel was known for two high-end restaurants, named Tessy's and T.J. Peppercorn's, live performances, and what one pianist told the Chicago Tribune was the "greatest" pool.

But for many Chicagoans, the hotel is best known as the site of a high-profile gangland murder.

Allen Dorfman, a Teamsters Union consultant and reputed mob associate, was gunned down in the parking lot of the hotel on Jan. 20, 1983. Authorities believe Dorfman was the victim of a mob hit to keep him from cooperating with prosecutors as he awaited sentencing for trying to bribe a U.S. Senator.

The hotel was known for seamy affairs in more recent years too. In the corruption trials of political fundraiser Antoin "Tony" Rezko, and more recently powerbroker William Cellini, businessman and admitted scam artist Stuart Levine testified that he attended all-night sex parties loaded with drugs such as crystal meth and ketamine at the hotel.

The hotel was also known for hosting such events as the Midwest Fetish Fair & Marketplace.

In the 1990s, the hotel changed banners from Hyatt to Radisson, and later Ramada, before simply becoming "the Purple Hotel" in 2004. The hotel was shut down after co-owner Donald Bae was taken to court over health code violations when mold was found in 208 rooms, the Tribune reported.

The Web site American Urbex showed the ruins of the hotel in an article earlier this year. It showed an outdoor pool full of brown floating algae from end to end, with a piece of plastic patio furniture floating on top. A stack of furniture, dead plants and glass shards filled the dry indoor pool on the others side of a row of glass doors.

Numerous other developers have been eyeing the hotel. Highland Park-based Tucker Development Corp. had agreed previously to buy the outstanding mortgage loans on the hotel, Crain's reported in November.

An attorney for the Village of Lincolnwood tells the newspaper its primary priority is to get redevelopment efforts going. The Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing by the Baes has no effect on the village's intention to have the hotel torn down, Crain's reported.

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