|By Don Dodson, The News-Gazette,
Champaign-Urbana, Ill.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
March 25, 2009--URBANA -- The company managing the Historic Lincoln Hotel says the hotel's owners plan to go ahead with a multimillion-dollar renovation even though a sheriff's sale of the property is scheduled April 24.
The hotel closed Tuesday, with Fred Rotermund of Global Hotel Management saying it will undergo nine months of renovation that will cost between $6.5 million and $8 million. The hotel's 10 employees were let go, and its six guests were told they needed to check out.
But a recent judgment of foreclosure casts some murkiness over the redevelopment plans.
On March 16, Marine Bank of Springfield won a $1.2 million judgment against the hotel owner, Urbana Enterprise LLC, and its president, Devang Patel. As a result, the hotel at 209 S. Broadway Ave., U, is scheduled to be sold at public auction to the highest bidder at 9 a.m. April 24.
The judgment of foreclosure includes not only the real estate, but also the furnishings of guest rooms, banquets rooms, the kitchen, bar and restaurant.
Urbana Enterprise LLC acquired the hotel in March 2008 from Marine Bank of Springfield, which had foreclosed on the previous owners.
On Tuesday, Rotermund contended the hotel would reopen in January 2010 with a new name, a major-brand restaurant and an exterior that harks back to its roots.
The current building in downtown Urbana blends the hotel's original 1924 design by local architect Joseph Royer with a Bavarian hunting lodge motif used in 1970s expansions.
"We intend to make the entire design the Royer design to maintain the brick and limestone, and bring in brick and limestone for the newer section done in the '70s," said Rotermund, vice president of Normal-based Global Hotel Management.
Rotermund said plans call for affiliating with a hotel chain and bringing a "major-brand" restaurant to the hotel. However, he said neither brand has been determined yet.
"It's my desire to try to incorporate the hotel's original name, the Urbana-Lincoln Hotel, but we'll see how the major brands feel about that," he said. "My major commitment is to maintain the original Royer design." The 128-room hotel on the northwest side of Lincoln Square Village mall has had a variety of identities through the years the Urbana-Lincoln, Jumer's Castle Lodge and the Historic Lincoln Hotel. The property has been without a restaurant for about a year.
Rotermund said Sachi Construction of Arlington Heights will be general contractor for the renovation project. The most significant renovations will be to the roof, but there will also be cosmetic changes and cleanup, he said.
"We're taking out carpet, wall coverings and some woodwork that's attractive but not historically significant," he added.
Space will also be renovated for a fitness center and business services center, he said.
Employees who were let go Tuesday have the option of reapplying for jobs when the hotel reopens next year, Rotermund said. They can also apply for jobs at Global Hotel Management's other properties, he added.
The company owns Holiday Inn Express hotels in Bloomington and Decatur and a Days Inn in Normal. It also has ownership interests in a Ramada Limited in Bloomington, a Country Inn & Suites in Bloomington and a Baymont Inn in Springfield.
As for people who made reservations at the Urbana Lincoln, Rotermund said the hotel has been trying to reach them so they can be relocated to other area hotels. He said the Eastland Suites hotel in Urbana has been particularly cooperative in accommodating guests.
Tom Carrino, Urbana's economic development manager, said the city is "excited" about what the hotel's operators are proposing, but said the owners haven't decided whether they want to enter into a development agreement with the city.
Carrino said the developers have had "serious discussions" with a national hotel chain and a regional restaurant chain about the property. He added that the city was aware the hotel might close for renovations, but did not learn of the actual closing until Tuesday.
Announcement of the closing came suddenly, with management being informed by the developer Monday night of the closing, Rotermund said.
Rotermund said the developer for the Historic Lincoln Hotel property is Urbana Enterprise LLC, the president of which is Patel. Rotermund said Global Hotel Management is a subsidiary of Urbana Enterprise.
When asked whether the financial crisis last fall affected the project, Rotermund said the company did have to change its financing for the project.
"We were going from financing in the U.S. through a bank, but it was not possible, so we're financing through private investment from global sources," he said, declining to be specific about the sources.
In June, the Urbana City Council rejected a bid to grant historic landmark designation to the hotel, after the owners claimed such status would make it more difficult to land a major brand for the hotel.
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