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Financial Dispute Continues to Plague Stalled $20 million Renovation
of Marriott Hotel at Union Station, St. Louis, Missouri

By Tim Bryant, St. Louis Post-DispatchMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

July 02, 2010--A financial dispute that began last summer continues to stall the $20 million renovation of the Marriott Hotel at Union Station.

The general contractor is suing Union Station for more than $1.2 million for work done before workers were pulled off the job in November. Marriott, which operates the 539-room hotel, is caught in the middle of the dispute.

General contractor Gus Cervetto, owner of CB&E Construction, said Thursday that problems with Union Station's owner began last summer, when construction payments to his company and subcontractors stopped.

"We continued to work in September and October without getting paid," Cervetto said. "But after that, we said enough is enough and we pulled our subs off the job."

The matter became more complicated in October, when the FDIC took over Park National Bank, which was part of a group financing the hotel renovation. Under the takeover, U.S. Bank of Minneapolis assumed the deposits and assets of Park National, which was owned by FBOP Corp. of Oak Park, Ill.

Cervetto said he has been trying to collect the money from FBOP before and since the takeover.

Efforts to reach officials at FBOP, U.S. Bank and Union Station's manager, Jones Lang LaSalle, were unsuccessful.

Marriott officials declined to comment.

Marriott announced last year a plan to renovate the hotel's ballrooms and guest rooms. In addition, Marriott said it would move the hotel's front desk to the atrium near Union Station's western end, allowing greater use of the barrel-vaulted Great Hall for private events.

The plan also calls for larger meeting and restaurant space in what had been the retail area along the midway.

Work halted after the ballrooms were refurbished. Sheets of black plastic cover the windows of shops that await conversion to hotel meeting space. Mockups of remodeled guest rooms were built, but no rooms were redone before work stalled.

By March, liens began to fly. CB&E, based in Chesterfield, filed a lien against Union Station Holdings. At least six subcontractors filed liens against CB&E. In April, the subcontractors filed a breach of contract suit against CB&E, Union Station Holdings and Marriott International.

A lawyer for the defendants declined Thursday to discuss the suit. But in a court filing, Union Station Holdings denied owing the contractors money and said their claims are barred "to the extent they include overcharges, charges for substandard work or charges on additional work not approved."

Cervetto said his company and the subcontractors will likely join in further legal action against Union Station Holdings to collect money he said is owed.

"We've decided to circle the wagons and when it comes time to sue, we'll all go in this together," he said.

Barbara Geisman, the city's deputy mayor for development, said she is sorry the hotel project "is experiencing all that difficulty.

"But I think U.S. Bank will be a really good steward for the property," she said.

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To see more of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.stltoday.com.

Copyright (c) 2010, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

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