Could 'Purple' reign again? An exclusive look at plans to save a notorious Lincolnwood hotel

January 12, 2012

A North Shore developer seeks to preserve and redevelop Lincolnwood's Purple Hotel--provided he can stop the suburb from demolishing the 51-year-old edifice.

"You've got this shell of a building there and it's doing absolutely nothing," said Jake Weiss, president of Skokie-based real estate investment firm Weiss Properties. "It's a beautiful structure with an architectural pedigree. Why tear down a perfectly good building?"

Village officials also plan to redevelop the site--after wrecking the vacant and moldy hotel sometime this year. The town awarded a $1.187 million demolition contract on the building last month, but will not raze the hotel without additional village board approval. The hotel has been closed since 2007.

In the meantime, Weiss and his architect Jackie Koo of Koo and Associates hope to persuade the village to let them redevelop the site with the hotel in place. Koo, who has won accolades for the ubercool, zig-zag faced theWit hotel at State and Lake in downtown Chicago, said the Purple Hotel's midcentury design could be a draw.

"It's a midcentury modern style that I think has a lot of validity today from a design perspective," she said. "From a hotel perspective, it's very relevant and trendy today."

Below is a preliminary plan--Koo called it "extremely preliminary"--showing how Weiss and Koo envision the site. The renovated Purple Hotel property would also have new retail buildings, restaurants and a fitness center, Weiss said. A large new separate hotel banquet hall to replace the one currently on the site is also planned. Weiss' partners on the proposed project are North Capital Group and First Hospitality Group--the company that runs theWit hotel:

Weiss does not own the Purple Hotel, but was able to purchase the position of the bank that held the hotel's note. He said he and the village are in discussion about the plan. Weiss characterized the talks as "cooperative and open...and very nice...[but] for some reason they believe the building or the shell is unsalvageable--or it might be ugly."

And then there is that little thing about the building's past. After a wonderful beginning as the Lincolnwood Hyatt (Barry Manilow played there in the 1970s) things went downhill. The mob killed Teamsters consultant Allen Dorfman in the Purple Hotel's parking lot in 1983. And during the 2008 corruption trial of businessman Tony Rezko, political donor Stuart P. Levine testified to having drug and sex parties at the hotel.

Designed by Hausner & Macsai, the hotel is a distinctive, if tattered, piece of architecture. And--for better or worse--Lincolnwood's best-known building. Here are more images I took during a visit last year:

"I love the building and see so much potential in it, as does Jake," said Koo.