Lettuce Consider Our Options: A chat with Rich Melman

January 29, 2010

In the wake of last week's news that a court-appointed receiver is taking over Block 37, Lettuce Entertain You‚ Founder Richard Melman is still optimistic, despite the fact his project is in a holding pattern.

block37

"Our project is three-quarters of the way finished," said Melman, referring to the Foodlife-like concept that was slated to launch this month, next to a theater that never materialized. "It's an important part of the project...and Larry Freed is still working on the funding.‚  We haven't met with anyone yet to discuss it."

In November, a judge moved to replace developer Joseph Freed & Associates LLC at the new State Street mall. Cook County Circuit Judge Margaret Brennan ordered a transfer to take place‚ and denied Freed's request to postpone the handover pending appeal.

Freed's lender, Bank of America Corp. sued in October to foreclose on the 280,000-square-foot property. The charge was that‚ the‚ developer had defaulted due to cost overruns and didn't have enough money to complete the project.

"We were going to tie-in to a dinner theater concept there, but this has turned the whole project sideways," said Melman. "Oddly enough, we've had three different times in the last year, where developers had to put the project on hold. There are opportunites out there, but it's a different time right now."