Art deco fan eyes Elgin Tower Building for apartments

A Chicago developer with a passion for art deco is interested in buying and building apartments in the iconic Elgin Tower Building.

Richard Souyoul, president of Souyoul Properties, said the company has entered into an agreement to buy the building at 100 E. Chicago St. from the Stickling Foundation.

The plan is to turn the 1920s-era building - which was condemned in mid-May - into 45 market-rate one- and two-bedroom apartments, he said.

"The building needs a complete makeover - a complete gut job," he said.

Wisconsin-based Gorman & Co., whose negotiations to purchase the building fell through earlier this summer, had planned on having retail space on the first floor, but Souyoul said he's planning apartments throughout.

An antiques collector and member of the Chicago Art Deco Society, Souyoul said he first eyed the Tower Building about a year ago, when he attended a local function.

"When I saw the building, I said, 'This looks interesting,'" he said. "When you drive in town, you can't miss it. It's a great building. It's art deco, and it has a lot of character."

Souyoul Properties has partnered with Capstone Development Group in St. Louis, Missouri, which has experience in similar projects including a current one in downtown St. Louis, he said.

The Elgin project would be a multimillion dollar investment "in the teens," Souyoul said.

Accounting firm Baker Tilly of Chicago is looking into securing federal historic tax credits for the project, he said.

Souyoul also said he's in negotiations with the city of Elgin to receive tax incentives for the project.

The building is within Elgin's Central Area Tax Increment Financing District. In a TIF district, property assessments are frozen at a specific level and tax revenues exceeding that amount are used for improvements within the district.

The city has budgeted $3.5 million in its multiyear plan through 2018 for renovations of the tower building.

"Attorneys for the city and the developer are working on a redevelopment agreement that is expected to be presented to the city council for consideration Sept. 24," Assistant City Manager Rick Kozal said.

If everything falls into place, Souyoul said, he hopes to begin construction by the first quarter of 2015. Construction would take at least 12 months, he said.

"We have a due diligence period where we're going through and inspecting the building. We've done a fair amount," he said. "It's a challenging project that you don't come across every day of the week."

Souyoul pointed to the popularity of the nearby Fountain Square on the River building as an indication that people want to live in downtown Elgin.

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