Homewood backs $900K incentive for hotel
BY GINGER BRASHINGER Correspondent December 12, 2012 8:02PM
Great Lakes Bank's branch on Ridge Road in downtown Homewood will be converted into a boutique hotel by the owner of Homewood's Ravisloe Country Club.
Updated: January 14, 2013 7:18AM
Homewood officials are betting that the man who bought and reinvented Ravisloe Country Club after it closed in 2008 will use his magic touch to turn a former bank building into a successful upscale boutique hotel.
Hoping such a business will ensure stability in the village’s downtown area, trustees voted 4 to 1 Tuesday night to move forward on a $900,000 tax break for Dr. Claude Gendreau to transform the former Great Lakes Bank property at 2034 Ridge Road. The board also voted 4 to 1 to recommend that Cook County grant the site a property tax break.
Village staff still has to draft the agreement. Trustee Jay Heiferman said the concerns of other taxing bodies such as school and library districts that might be affected by the incentive should be considered when the agreement is drawn up.
Gendreau, a veterinarian and businessman, promised to “breathe life into a landmark building” that was built in the 1920s.
“We think it’s important to preserve that building,” Gendreau said. “We’ll give it the same commitment we give to Ravisloe.”
Gendreau bought Ravisloe Country Club in 2009, and turned it into a public golf course and event venue. He believes it will be instrumental in the success of Le Banque, his name for the 18-room boutique hotel he plans to develop at a cost of $5.1 million.
Gendreau said he already has committed to hosting 48 weddings in 2013 at Ravisloe, where more than 20,000 rounds of golf were played in 2012. But he said he could not take advantage of another would-be component of the business: He has had to direct wedding and other event guests to hotels in other nearby communities, he said.
“We’d rather book them here,” Gendreau said.
Gendreau earlier this year bought the property for $690,000 with the intention of developing it into a hotel of up to 50 rooms. He has scaled back the plans, becoming a “little more prudent, a little more cautious” in order to test the market, Homewood community development director Paula Wallrich said.
She said Homewood is “very fortunate to have someone with his business acumen” and that the concept of Le Banque would be “the perfect fit” for downtown Homewood, feeding into existing retail, services, residential and entertainment businesses. She said it will offer a restaurant, lounge, spa and fitness center in addition to the high-end guest rooms.
Homewood resident Paul McKee asked Gendreau what return the village would realize on its investment. Gendreau said it would be “very hard to quantify” in dollars but he believed it would preserve property values in the area.
“It may prevent other businesses from being vacated and also will generate tax revenue,” he said.
“We think eventually the market will support 40 or 50 rooms,” he said, calling the hotel “just a seed” leading into a bigger project.
The incentive, which puts the hotel in a special taxing district, means it could be years before other taxing bodies benefit from extra tax revenue generated by the development.
Homewood School District 153 Board President Shelly Marks said the school district is an “enthusiastic supporter of continued and robust development in Homewood” but it was “taken aback” by the incentive plan and thought the scope of it required a “full and complete discussion” by all the affected parties.
Members of the Homewood Public Library Board echoed Marks’ remarks.
Heiferman said the taxing bodies asked “great questions that should be considered when the incentive agreement is drawn.”
Village attorney Chris Cummings said reimbursing the purchase price of a property was not an inappropriate incentive. He said it was “easier to measure” than trying to track “rehab costs.”
In addition to the $690,000 for the property’s purchase price, the incentive includes $210,000 for design and engineering reviews.
Gendreau said he plans to begin renovations in January and complete the project by the end of next summer.