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May 15--PEORIA -- U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Thomas Perkins told all parties in the Marriott Pere Marquette bankruptcy case Monday that the sale of the hotel properties across the street from the U.S. District Courthouse in Downtown Peoria would be in the best interests of all concerned.

"The best time for a deal is now. We need to get the sale moving. I encourage you to keep talking," said Perkins. The judge addressed lawyers in the case, including those for GEM Hospitality LLC, the company owned by Matthews and his partners who filed for bankruptcy in March to stave off an impeding foreclosure sale of the Pere Marquette and neighboring Courtyard by Marriott; and the INDURE Build-to-Core Fund, the union pension fund that provided primary financing for reconstructing the historic structure.

"This is a high-profile case. I would be remiss if I let this go off on a litigation track without attempting to arrange a sale," said the judge. "We want to have a good sale. The sooner we get there, the better. Let the market speak," said Perkins.

Elizabeth Vandesteeg, one of GEM's attorneys, who sought to arrange compensation for a real estate adviser to arrange a possible sale, expressed optimism that a deal could be struck. "We think the market is talking," she said.

Perkins urged a speedy resolution to the case, stating that the longer it drags on in court, the less money -- if any at all -- will be available to other lien holders. One of those lien holders is the city of Peoria, which invested more than $7 million in the hotel project.

"If you force me to rule I will, but you may not like the way I rule," Perkins told the attorneys involved.

Much of Monday's hearing was taken up by a discussion of legal fees, specifically for Gem's legal team -- when it should be paid and how those fees should be displayed on court documents.

The next bankruptcy hearing will deal with compensation for the real estate adviser that Gem seeks to retain is scheduled at 10 a.m. May 24. A June 27 trial has also been scheduled.

Steve Tarter covers city and county government for the Journal Star. He can be reached at 686-3260 or Follow him at Twitter@SteveTarter and

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