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$92.8 million Pere Marquette Hotel Project May Finally Be Underway
in Peoria, Illinois; Deadline Met for Required Paperwork

By Andy Kravetz, Journal Star, Peoria, Ill.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News

March 30, 2012--PEORIA

After several missed deadlines, it appears the $92.8 million Downtown hotel project met the final and possibly most important one with a day to spare.

City Manager Patrick Urich said Thursday the required paperwork for the project was at City Hall and had passed legal muster, with the last document arriving Thursday morning. That means, he said, the city could begin the process to sell bonds next week and by May, work on the project could begin.

"As of this point, we have received all documents from all the parties in the transactions and we have reviewed the documents that are required to be produced by the developer to meet the preconditions for selling the bonds. Those are in place," Urich said.

Frustrated by many delays, the City Council imposed a 5 p.m. Friday deadline for project managers to deliver all the legal papers necessary to complete the deal. Urich said about 90 or so different documents had come in the mail and by delivery this week alone.

In all, there were reams upon reams of paper that Urich estimated took "thousands of hours" over the past year to review. Many of the documents arrived in cardboard boxes. City Attorney Randy Ray smiled when asked why the papers weren't scanned and presented to city officials in electronic format.

"The law hasn't caught up to modern times and we still believe in signatures," he said.

Urich said this wasn't the time for cheers. Rather, he likened the filing of the paperwork as the "first book in a series."

"The next book is as we work through construction," he said, noting the city plans to hire someone to oversee the construction "to make sure it is being built according to the plans and specifications."

The hotel project will feature a 284-room, fully renovated Pere Marquette with a 116-room, newly constructed Courtyard by Marriott next to it. The entire complex, when completed, will be attached to the Peoria Civic Center via a skywalk.

The city's obligation includes about $32 million in bonded principal and interest over 20 years, with payments coming from revenue generated by the facility. Additionally, the city is loaning $7 million to developer EM Properties.

Among the items received were documents regarding the mortgage, the financing, the sale of tax credits and a personal guarantee from Gary Matthews, president of EM Properties, for the $7 million loan, said Urich. Also in the paperwork was a pledge by Matthews not to contest his property taxes, which will go to repay the bonds.

Matthews could not be reached for comment on Thursday.

It's expected to take 14 to 21 days to sell the bonds, after which, Matthews told reporters on Wednesday, the hotel will prepare to schedule a liquidation sale of personal property left inside. That includes furniture, pictures, mirrors and a host of other items left behind after the hotel's closure.

Once the items are sold, then construction could begin in earnest. The Pere Marquette is supposed to reopen by March 1, 2013, and the new, adjacent Courtyard by Mariott a year later.

Andy Kravetz can be reached at 686-3283 or akravetz@pjstar.com. Follow him on Twitter @andykravetz.

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(c)2012 the Journal Star (Peoria, Ill.)

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

Distributed by MCT Information Services NASDAQ:MATW,




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