Not so fast

Club Station House closing called off

Tomorrow’s grand finale party at Club Station House, Springfield’s oldest gay bar, has been canceled.

Ryan Bandy, the bar owner, says that developers who want to erect a hotel on the site have asked to postpone a July 31 date to close on the property sale. Bandy said that Allen Williams, a representative of the developers, contacted him on Thursday and told him that one of the lead investors is out of the country and needs to be present for the closing.

Williams could not immediately be reached for comment.

Bandy a week ago had announced a closing party complete with drag queens and drink specials. Now, Bandy says, he is in a “holding pattern,” as are bar patrons and tenants who live in apartments over the bar on Washington Avenue.

Between free rent that he’s given tenants and vacant apartments he hasn’t rented in expectation of selling the building, Bandy figures he has forgone at least $10,000 in expectation of the deal closing on July 31, as called for in an agreement between himself and the developers.

The city council last spring approved $7.65 million in tax increment financing funds for the project, which was pitched the council as $56 million proposal. The price tag swelled to nearly $74 million in June, when proponents asked for tax breaks on construction costs. Under the ordinance approving a TIF subsidy, the city would pay $450,000 to buy the parcel where Club Station House now sits. Mayor Jim Langfelder has said that the money equal to the appraised value of the land will be released once private financing is secured and the balance of money approved for land acquisition, if any, would come when the hotel is built. Most of the TIF subsidy would come over a period of several years.

The 95-room five-story hotel would include apartments, a bowling alley and a rooftop bar. Even before the city council approved a subsidy for the project, the Wyndham Centre on Adams Street last fall changed hands after lenders filed a foreclosure action. The 30-story Wyndham has a fair market value of $10.9 million, according to Sangamon County property records. The President Abraham Lincoln Hotel across the street has a fair market value of $10 million. The Mansion View Inn on South Fourth Street, which has 100 rooms, is up for auction, with bidding set to begin next month and the starting bid set at $400,000.

Bandy says he believes the new hotel would be good for the city, and he remains optimistic. But he acknowledges frustration.

“I’m frustrated because I’ve had a very good relationship with these gentlemen,” Bandy said. “I’ve always seen the good in this project. I really went to bat for them in council. For this to hit me less than a week away is really frustrating.”

Ward 7 Ald. Joe McMenamin, the sole vote against TIF money for the hotel, said he still questions a public subsidy. Under the ordinance approved by the council last spring, public money could change hands for land acquisition before construction is complete, and McMenamin said that’s wrong.

“I think the delay is good news for those who believe in proper fiscal management,” McMenamin said.

Contact Bruce Rushton at brushton@illinoistimes.com.

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