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East Peoria, Illinois Redevelopment Agreement for $102 Million Marriott Hotel
Project First Approved 1,016 Days Ago is Up for Yet Another Vote

By John Sharp, Journal Star, Peoria, Ill.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Sept. 27, 2011--PEORIA -- It's been 1,016 days since the City Council first approved a redevelopment agreement with an East Peoria developer to produce a $102 million Marriott Hotel project in Downtown Peoria.

That vote occurred one day before Rod Blagojevich was impeached as governor, four days before Ray LaHood was nominated as U.S. Transportation Secretary, and more than a month before Barack Obama was inaugurated president.

And it might continue past Tuesday. The council is only scheduled to vote on whether to end the agreement with developer Gary Matthews, which would effectively kill the hotel deal. A vote to deny the cancellation means the potential for another agreement lives on, even though nothing final has been put into place.

Which means more waiting.

"If it's not canceled (Tuesday) night, something else would have to happen," City Attorney Randy Ray said Monday.

Added City Manager Patrick Urich, "We'll see if we are able to come to some sort of agreement that would go back to the council (at a later date)."

Last minute meetings on the project were being held at City Hall, but Ray could not say how the issue will play itself out Tuesday. Neither did Urich, though he said there will likely be another executive session to continue discussing the matter.

"Because of the situation we were in with the developer threatening to sue us, our discussions with him have been in light of trying to settle that," Urich said. "We feel we are within our rights to terminate our agreement."

Business leaders also hope the council continues to work with Matthews. They, along with local union officials hoping for added jobs in the region, believe it's crucial for the Hotel Pere Marquette to be transformed into a newer product, one that is part of a 401-room development attached to the Peoria Civic Center via a skywalk.

"A hotel connected to the Civic Center would be a great boost to our convention and tourism marketing abilities, which would in turn be a great boost for regional economic development," Renee Charles, a spokeswoman with the Heartland Partnership, said Monday.

Bob Marx, president/CEO of the Peoria Area Chamber of Commerce, agreed, adding that he felt confident about the outcome of Tuesday's vote.

"We're thinking positively and hoping certainly for the best and anticipating enough council members will concur with us that the economic potential for Peoria is nothing short of exceptional if we can get this project moving," he said.

Tuesday's vote is the culmination of perhaps the most active 30 days in the project's long history.

Some highlights:

- The city hand-delivered a letter written by Urich to Matthews informing him the redevelopment agreement was canceled. He cited several reasons, including a lack of proof of private financing, discrepancies in some numbers and in tax credit information.

- On Sept. 2, EM Properties released a statement saying Matthews has "provided sufficient evidence of financing."

- An attorney representing Matthews sent a letter on Sept. 7 saying Urich's letter does not constitute a lawful cancellation of the agreement and threatens to "pursue all remedies" if it's terminated. Also on that day, a foreclosure is filed on the Hotel Pere Marquette at the Peoria County Courthouse.

- The City Council, following a closed-door meeting of more than two hours, votes 8-3 to wait two more weeks to give Matthews time to fine tune his end of the agreement. No word has been received whether that has happened or not.

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Redevelopment agreement issues: Key numbers

4: Tuesday's City Council meeting is the fourth time the council votes on an agreement with EM Properties to redevelop the Hotel Pere Marquette and its adjacent properties into a Marriott Hotel.

13: Number of conditions that need to be met within the redevelopment agreement before the project can progress. It's a number that City Manager Patrick Urich claims has not yet been met.

30: The number of years Marriott International Inc. agreed to manage the hotel project in Downtown Peoria.

1,016: Number of days since the Peoria City Council approved its first redevelopment contract with EM Properties to build the Marriott Hotel.

$30 million: Private financing commitment provided to the city within a letter from National Real Estate Advisors. Urich argued that the commitment letter failed to disclose the financial institutions within deal.

$67 million: The amount of money the city would be obligated to repay on a $37 million bond to construct the Marriott Hotel. This figure includes interest through 2032.

$96.6 million: A figure that Urich claims was the total cost of the project in a letter he issued last month. Matthews, through an attorney, disputed Urich's claim.

$102 million: Total cost of building the Marriott Hotel, according to EM Properties.

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Follow the City Council meeting Tuesday at "Word on the Web" at www.pjstar.com. Also, check for updates via Twitter @JohnSharp99. The council's meeting starts at 6:15 p.m.

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John Sharp can be reached at 686-3282 or jsharp@pjstar.com. Follow him on Twitter @JohnSharp99.

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(c)2011 the Journal Star (Peoria, Ill.)

Visit the Journal Star (Peoria, Ill.) at www.PJStar.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services NASDAQ:CHCO,NYSE:MAR,NASDAQ:MATW,



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