The infamous Purple Hotel may finally be getting a new life
The Purple Hotel, it seems, isn’t going away.
For years, Lincolnwood officials and thousands of people who drive by it daily have seen red over the old hotel, which before it slid into total disrepair had become known largely for debaucherous parties and a mob shooting.
It closed in 2007, but that was a blessing. The place had gotten so unkempt and disreputable that Lincolnwood had obtained a court order requiring the owner not to rent certain rooms. Since 2011, the village has had the right to tear it down.
Its legal leverage may have helped push the property through a bankruptcy sale in 2012. A partnership connected to Skokie-based Weiss Properties bought it for $8.3 million, about a third of what the former owners previously wanted.
Since then, the question on people’s minds has been, save the Purple Hotel or wreck it?
Now, it appears, the answer is save it. After a long string of discussions between Weiss and Lincolnwood, both sides have agreed on plans to renovate the Purple Hotel, though what becomes of the famous façade remains unsettled.
People either love or hate the color. Weiss is working with architect Jackie Koo, principal of Koo and Associates, who months ago suggested a screen over the brick, in effect toning down the color while leaving the bricks intact. Her more recent renderings are minus the screen, leaving the hotel in its deep-blue majesty.
It’s a touchy subject. Koo said that aside from local opinions, views of hotel franchise operators and the state historic preservation agency have to be considered. She said the owners hope to get tax credits for renovating the property and may be unable to alter its signature feature.
Koo, best known for her bold design of the Wit Hotel at 201 N. State, puts herself in the pro-purple camp. “I think the purple is great,” she said. “When you think of a new construction hotel these days, you never get anything that has that integrity and that interest.
“It really is a landmark building because of the color. It gives it an identity, which is really what’s missing in architecture these days.”
Jake Weiss, president of Weiss Properties, proposes reopening the hotel at 4500 W. Touhy by mid-2014. It would be attached to a banquet hall, with a retail and office complex possible later. Weiss could not be reached this week.
The Lincolnwood Plan Commission has a hearing on Weiss’ plan April 24. It already has held two public “workshops” after which plans were revised to address questions over issues such as traffic flows, parking and landscaping.
Lincolnwood Mayor Gerald Turry is a strong backer of the plan. He has two opponents in Tuesday’s election who have been more reserved in praising Weiss, and some in the suburb don’t like the project’s phased nature. Weiss is the rightful owner, however, and fighting him might only bring on more delays that people say they don’t want.
They remember the Purple’s long slide down in status. In its final years, it was a favored meeting place for “swingers’ clubs.” Convicted political insider Stuart Levine testified that he used the hotel for drug parties.
Thirty years ago, while the hotel was still a Hyatt, mobster Allen Dorfman was gunned down in its parking lot.
But many others remember the hotel fondly for weddings, anniversaries and bar mitzvahs. Timothy Clarke, community development director of Lincolnwood, said that when word got out that the hotel might be demolished, “I got calls from throughout the Chicago area from people wanting a brick.”
Renderings courtesy of Koo and Associates