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Thalia Hall Developer Buys Spiegel Building in Bridgeport

By Ed Komenda | February 16, 2016 6:27am
 A federal bankruptcy judge has OK'd the sale of the abandoned Spiegel catalog warehouse to Blue Star Properties, the company behind the renovation of Thalia Hall.
A federal bankruptcy judge has OK'd the sale of the abandoned Spiegel catalog warehouse to Blue Star Properties, the company behind the renovation of Thalia Hall.
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DNAinfo/Casey Cora

BRIDGEPORT — The Spiegel catalog warehouse has been sold.

After a federal bankruptcy judge OK’d the sale, Blue Star Properties inked a deal in mid-January to buy the 79-year-old landmark at 1038 W. 35th St.

"We have owned it for a couple weeks now,” said Tyler Quast, the company's chief operating officer. “We feel very fortunate. ... We love what’s going on in the neighborhood.”

Quast would not say how much Chicago-based Blue Star paid for the warehouse. A source close to the deal said the closing price was around $2.7 million.

The historic structure had been in the sights of Z. Group International, led by DaHuang Zhou, one half of the world-renowned artist duo known as the Zhou Brothers.

In 2014, a judge OK’d the company to buy the building from developer David Dubin, whose Dubin Residential projects in Bridgeport and McKinley Park fell into bankruptcy.

Since 2006, Dubin had planned to transform the Spiegel Building into “The Lofts at Bridgeport Place,” a 160-condominium project with commercial space that later sputtered.

After the bankruptcy, a $3.6 million deal was in the works for Z. Group International to buy the building, according to Crain's, which first reported the news

The company planned to convert the towering six-story building into a mixed-use development, but specifics never surfaced.

Z. Group International is no longer tied to the building.

“Unfortunately," said Michael Zhou, executive director of the Zhou B. Art Center, "we won’t be involved in the project across the street.”

Negotiations fell apart before the company could close the deal, marred by "bad timing," Zhou said. At the time, the Zhou Brothers were focused on opening an art center in China's capital, Beijing.

Zhou said he's optimistic about Blue Star's impact on Bridgeport.

"I think it will be a great thing for the neighborhood," he said.

Blue Star will soon send workers into the 240,000-square-foot building to fix up the facades, roofs and windows, Quast said, "to get it to the point where it’s able to house tenants."

The Art Moderne-style structure is the former headquarters of Spiegel Inc., the famous mail-order house founded in Chicago in 1907 by German immigrant Joseph Spiegel.

Spiegel was one of the first — and largest — tenants of the original Central Manufacturing District and a neighbor to companies like Wrigley, Ford, Pullman Couch, Pacific Lumber and Westinghouse Electric.

Vacant since 1995, the storied Spiegel building now needs an extensive overhaul.

After news that Antique Taco will soon open a restaurant at the corner of 35th and Morgan streets, the Spiegel deal represents the next step of a much-needed makeover for a pocket of the neighborhood some consider an eyesore.

"It’s a building that’s been in a rougher spot of the neighborhood," Quast said. "We hope to clean it up and have it be inhabitable."

Quast did not comment on who — or what — might be the next to call the building home.

Ald. Patrick D. Thompson (11th), who met with several potential buyers of the property before Blue Star closed the deal, said he envisioned commercial businesses and retailers at the rehabbed site.

The first-term alderman marks the deal as a victory for Bridgeport.

“For a company like that to invest in the building just demonstrates the confidence they have in our" neighborhood, Thompson said. "This is a great addition, and I’m confident they have the deep pockets to spend on the renovations needed there."

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