I’ll believe a $56 million hotel is coming to downtown when I’m sipping pink champagne at the promised rooftop bar.
Proponents have secured $7.65 million in tax increment financing money from a city where hotels come cheap and downtown development isn’t easy. Besides 95 hotel rooms, the proposed 10-story building next to the Amtrak station will have 17 apartments, condos, billiards, an arcade, two stories of parking, a bowling alley on the fifth floor and a swimming pool on the sixth, according to a project summary prepared by proponents who see no issues with putting a hotel next to tracks where locomotive horns blare. Call it Hotel Springfield, which everyone deems groovy.
“It’s a real proposal that has a great chance of actually happening,” the State Journal-Register gushed in an editorial.
The downtown Wyndham, after foreclosure, is for sale. Across the street, the President Abraham Lincoln Hotel fetched $9.3 million in 2014. The State House Inn near the Capitol sold for $3.6 million in 2017, then underwent extensive renovations.
DK Collection SPI, a limited liability corporation created in January, is the face of downtown’s newest hotel developer. It does business from a modest house west of Camp Butler National Cemetery.
Before he stopped talking to me, I asked Allen Williams, DK spokesman, to name projects completed by Hotel Sprinfieldbackers. I can’t – I’m in my car, Williams said. OK, name one. There’s a Fairfield Inn renovation in Chicago, he said, and a Marriott is under construction in the nation’s capital. Who’s the Marriott contractor? “Ground has been broken, but I can’t reveal that information to you,” Williams said. Why not – if I was in Washington, couldn’t I look at trucks? “They’ve cut a ribbon,” he responded. “I don’t know exactly how far along they are in that process.”
The city provided me a list of projects submitted by Williams that has the Fairfield Inn, but not a Marriott in Washington. The list includes hotels in Germany, England, Tennessee, North Dakota and Louisiana.
Williams told aldermen that three LLCs are behind Hotel Springfield: WC Solutions in Chicago, A Plus X Creative Labs in Mt. Prospect and New Legacy Property Ventures, which is headquartered in Florida.
WC Solutions was formed in 2017 to do anything lawful, according to secretary of state records, and is managed by Deandre Allen, who attended a March 12 city council gathering but didn’t speak. A Plus X Creative Labs, also born in 2017, is managed by Senyo Ador and is “a collaborative platform for all multimedia projects with a goal of providing unique educational exposure and access to underserved youth,” according to state records. Ador is an electrical engineer, hired in 2013 by a manufacturing company founded in 1946.
What hotel development expertise does a collaborative platform for multimedia projects have? Williams wouldn’t answer questions after DK landed TIF money at Tuesday’s council meeting.
New Legacy Property Ventures was created in September and is managed by Alexis Moreland. There is no mention of hotels on Moreland’s LinkedIn page, where he promotes a t-shirt and hat company called Grind City University and says that New Legacy specializes in distressed residential property. “Life will knock you down several times, but all you need to do to win is stand up one time more,” New Legacy tells folks on its LinkedIn page. Either that or convince Springfield aldermen to give you $7.65 million.
To be fair, the city won’t write one big check. The only upfront money would be $450,000 to buy land where Club Station House sits. After that, TIF subsidies will come over years, presuming the hotel flourishes.
Jim Zerkle, corporation counsel, says the city won’t spend anything until private financing is secured. If the project stalls after land is purchased, the city would own Club Station House – it’s made worse investments. “The worst-case scenario is, the city ends up with the property that would be available for redevelopment,” Zerkle said. “It (the TIF plan) would be a prudent structure for the city to try to give an opportunity to parties who have performed similar projects a chance to perform.” What similar projects? “I have not inspected or looked at them.” According to DK, Marriott executives were supposed to visit the site on March 12. No one from the city was there. “That wasn’t anything we were involved in,” says Val Yazell, economic development director.
Ward 1 Ald. Chuck Redpath, who sponsored the TIF ordinance, has no concerns: “I think our economic development department and legal department have checked into this company.”
DK’s project summary lists dozens of private equity firms and financial institutions as partners. Some, such as Goldman Sachs, are household names. Oracle, which sells software, seems odd. The partners I contacted hadn’t heard of Hotel Springfield.
Williams acknowledges that listed partners haven’t signed on, but says they’ve done business with Aimbridge Hospitality, a management company that would run Hotel Springfield. I couldn’t reach anyone at Aimbridge. Room descriptions in the project summary are cut-and-paste jobs from a Marriott website. Besides Marriott, Hilton is interested, according to the project summary.
Hotel Springfield backers, Williams says, have spent $800,000. On what? “Architectural costs, construction costs, market studies, feasibility studies,” Williams answers. Construction costs? Meetings with contractors cost money, Williams explains. The biggest project described on the architect’s website is a Chicago community center that apparently hasn’t been built.
“We all agree this is something that has to happen for downtown,” Ward 5 Ald. Andrew Proctor said on Tuesday.
So welcome to Hotel Springfield, where developers can check out any time they like. But we can never leave.