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Judge Orders Foreclosure Auction of the 462-room
 Crowne Plaza Hotel in Downtown Tulsa

By Robert Evatt, Tulsa World, Okla.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News

July 09, 2010 --The downtown Crowne Plaza Hotel has entered foreclosure and will be sold at a sheriff's auction in the near future.

A judgment by Tulsa County District Judge Rebecca Nightingale found that the 462-room hotel's owners, Ascension Hotels of Donaldsonville, La., failed to repay a $20.3 million loan plus $3.1 million in interest by the due date, and the property has been awarded to Tulsa Hotel Partners LLC, holders of the loan.

However, THP has been ordered by the court to sell the property as soon as possible.

Also named as defendants in the foreclosure lawsuit were Aaron Patel -- also known as Amrutbhai J. Patel -- of Donaldsonville; and Kamal and Tarun Kapoor, both of Alhambra, Calif. Tarun Kapoor is president of Ascension Hotels.

Steven Soule, an attorney for THP, said the property's sale will be conducted through an auction by the Tulsa County Sheriff's Department.

A date has yet to be announced.

The foreclosure and sale are not expected to affect the hotel's operations, Soule said.

"The hotel has been operating business as usual during its receivership, and the expectation is that this will continue," he said. "It's a nice property; they just weren't paying their bills."

<>Aimbridge Hospitality of Dallas, manager of the Crowne Plaza, stated in March that the hotel had not performed up to expectations because of the recession and issues specific to downtown Tulsa. It cited horns from passing trains, but that issue was resolved months ago by their elimination after downtown rail crossings were improved. Also cited were "difficult" negotiations with the city over parking and other matters.

At the same time, Tarun Kapoor said in a news release that Ascension was close to reaching agreements with new lenders that would resolve the lawsuit and allow the hotel to emerge from receivership.

Representatives of Crowne Plaza, Ascension Hotels and Aimbridge Hospitality did not respond to requests for comment Thursday.

Ascension Hotels, which operates four hotels in Louisiana, purchased the Crowne Plaza in 2006 for $6.75 million and began a two-year, $20 million renovation shortly afterward.

Column Financial Inc. of Delaware granted a $19 million mortgage to Patel and the Kapoors in May 2007. The lender transferred the mortgage to Sorin Real Estate in October of that year and increased the amount to $20.3 million in October 2008. Sorin assigned the loan to THP this year.

A previous lawsuit by Sorin seeking foreclosure stated that Ascension agreed to make monthly, interest-only payments from November 2008 to Dec. 31, 2009, when the entire amount of the loan would be due.

As a result of that suit, Nightingale placed the hotel into receivership, and Aimbridge Hospitality of Dallas assumed day-to-day control of the hotel.

Little at the hotel has changed since then, although a Starbucks Coffee franchise inside the building closed in May. In a note taped to its door, the hotel's management said Starbucks did not consider the downtown Tulsa market to be viable and closed the store as part of hundreds of closures the chain is undertaking across the country.

Starbucks coffee is now served at the Courtyard by Marriott hotel in the converted Atlas Life Building a few blocks away.

Elements Spa and the Daily Grill restaurant continue to operate at the Crowne Plaza.

Robert Evatt 581-8447 robert.evatt@tulsaworld.com

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To see more of the Tulsa World, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.tulsaworld.com.

Copyright (c) 2010, Tulsa World, Okla.

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