PULLMAN — An out-of-town developer's plan to revive the historic Landmark Inn has hit a Chicago-sized speed bump.
A lawyer representing Langley Investment Group sent letters notifying neighbors of the San Diego-based developer’s plan to request a zoning change to convert the residentially zoned building at 11112 S. Langley Ave. into restaurant with a liquor license on the first floor and rent out four apartments on the two upper floors.
But Ald. Anthony Beale (9th) said that right now that request is “dead on arrival.”
“They haven’t talked to the community about what they’re trying to do, and they definitely haven’t talked to me, and I do not support it right now,” Beale said. “They have so many hurdles to get over. First of all, you can’t have liquor.”
The historic Pullman neighborhood, now a national monument, was voted dry in 1998. Beale lifted part of the ban to allow Wal-Mart to sell packaged liquor, but a ban on taverns remains in place.
Collin Morris, director of construction for the management company renovating the Landmark, said the investors he represents hope to meet with Beale and neighborhood groups to win their support.
“We’ve already done about $70,000 in repairs. We’re doing new windows now, and everything is being done to historic guidelines,” Morris said. “Our biggest concern is to clean up blight, and that building was pretty rundown. … One good thing is people in the community are excited about seeing the Landmark Inn restored.”
The San Diego investment group funding the renovations hopes to completely renovate the building, restore the zoning classification to allow a first-floor business and sell the property to someone interested in running a business and renting the apartments.
“The investment group funding the construction tends to want their [profit] gains to be more short-term,” Morris said.
“So, we’re not really interested in holding on to the asset. … Our long-term plan is to sell it as an investment property to someone who wants to run a business and rent out the apartments.”
Morris said the developers, who have similar investments in other cities around the country, didn’t expect trouble restoring the building’s zoning.
Attorney Graham Grady, a former Chicago buildings commissioner representing the developer, declined to comment.
The Landmark Inn dates to the 1880s, when it was built as a second hotel in railroad mogul George Pullman’s factory town. In the 1960s, the first floor was a polka club called Stanley Jay’s. Later, it was converted into a tavern, and it closed for good in the early '90s.
The late Earl Pionke, the famous folk music tavern owner known as “Earl of Old Town,” bought the place with plans to open a bar and live music venue. He moved in with his "lady friend" Sharon Biggerstaff, but they never opened the joint. In 2014, Earl’s family sold the building to the San Diego developers.
Despite his current lack of support for the zoning change, Beale said he is open to consider zoning changes and lifting liquor bans on a “case-by-case” basis.
“Right now that project is at a halt,” Beale said. “They’re from out of state. They bought a building. We haven’t seen any proposals or drawings. They need to back up and present things the right way.”
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