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Proposed $102 million Marriott Hotel Project in Peoria, Illinois Still Breathes Life

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

Sept. 28, 2011--PEORIA -- The city's Marriott Hotel project lives on.

By an 8-3 vote Tuesday, the City Council withdrew the cancellation of a redevelopment agreement with EM Properties of East Peoria that would have essentially killed the $102 million Downtown project.

The council is now tentatively scheduled to vote Oct. 11 on a revised redevelopment agreement, which could potentially have a lower bond liability for the city.

There was no public discussion by any council member after they returned to vote following a one hour, 20 minute closed door meeting.

Voting "no" against withdrawing the cancellation were Council members Chuck Weaver, Beth Akeson and Gary Sandberg.

After the meeting, City Manager Patrick Urich said more details about a revised agreement to get the long-awaited project started could be available soon.

"We've reached a tentative agreement with the redeveloper," Urich said. "We still have some issues to iron out. Over the next couple of weeks, we'd like to get that done. As soon as we have the redevelopment agreement and the terms of the settlement ironed out, we'll release those publicly."

Urich declined to discuss any details about a revised agreement, other than to say all the concerns he expressed in an Aug. 31 letter to developer Gary Matthews are being worked out "as soon as possible."

Cancellation of the agreement had been under consideration since Urich sent the letter to Matthews saying the agreement the council approved in May 2010 had been canceled.

Urich cited several reasons for the cancellation, 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 had provided sufficient evidence of financing. A few days later, an attorney representing the developer sent a letter to Urich saying if the agreement was canceled, all remedies would be pursued.

Two weeks ago, the council voted 8-3 to give Matthews more time to fine tune his end of the agreement, which Urich indicated had been completed.

The project, as approved by the council 16 months ago, requests $37 million in public financing through bonding to support a two-part redevelopment: turning the Hotel Pere Marquette into a 284-room, full-service hotel next to a new 10-story, 117-Marriott Courtyard where Big Al's and its adjoining taverns are located.

The project is to be attached via a skywalk to the Civic Center's theater and has been viewed by supporters as a catalyst to attract more conventions and events to the Downtown venue.

The economic recession and slow recovery has been cited for causing multiple delays in getting the project started. As such, the design of the project has changed twice and the city's obligation requirements have gone down.

In 2008, an elaborate Marriott Hotel design required the city to contribute $39.3 million in financing, but that concept was changed to the design concept approved by the council on May 25, 2010.

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Marriott Hotel vote

The vote to withdraw the cancellation of the redevelopment agreement with EM Properties to build a $102 million Marriott Hotel project in Downtown Peoria.

Yes

Mayor Jim Ardis, Council members Eric Turner, Bill Spears, Ryan Spain, Barbara Van Auken, Clyde Gulley, Dan Irving and Timothy Riggenbach

No

Chuck Weaver, Gary Sandberg and Beth Akeson

______

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 NYSE:MAR,NASDAQ:MATW,



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