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Joe Perillo not afraid to step and explain Rosemoor Hotel plan: Brown

Updated: November 16, 2013 6:25AM

I’ve got to give Joe Perillo credit.

All the other developers who are busy buying up single-room occupancy buildings across the city and kicking out the poor people who live there are only too happy to hide behind their attorneys and corporate veils to avoid me.

But Perillo stepped right up Monday to personally explain why he’s not particularly concerned about displacing the residents of the Rosemoor Hotel, one of the last of the old Skid Row flophouses on the Near West Side, before he bought it in March and began fixing it up.

“I’m not the government. That’s for the government to figure out,” Perillo said.

“That’s not my problem,” he added later.

“If that seems insensitive, that’s not what I made this investment for,” continued Perillo, best known in Chicago as your go-to dealer for luxury automobiles.

As I reported in Sunday’s column, the fate of the Rosemoor tenants actually has become something of a problem for Perillo after a Cook County judge issued a temporary restraining order earlier this month to block his company from raising rents or evicting the tenants while she sorts out allegations of retaliatory tactics against them.

The tenants claim the new owners more than doubled the rents and initiated eviction efforts in retaliation against them for forming a tenants union that convinced City Hall to shut down Perillo’s rehab project for not having the proper permits.

Perillo said that’s obviously false because it was always his intention to increase rents to make his project work financially. His company has since obtained its permits and resumed work.

Some of the tenants Perillo inherited had been paying as little as $13 a night, he said.

“I can’t make it for $13 a day,” he said. “You can’t park your car at the meter for $13 a day.”

Instead, he has raised rents to $250 a week with plans to increase that to $350 a week when he completes the rehab work.

As far as what would happen to the previous tenants who couldn’t afford the higher rents, “I never considered or thought of that when I bought that place,” Perillo said.

In that regard, Perillo is hardly alone. Nobody seems to be considering what will result from Chicago losing the last of this affordable housing option, highly imperfect as it was, certainly not the government on which he places his trust.

The SROs are disappearing, producing more candidates for the homeless shelters.

Still, I can honestly appreciate Perillo’s position. He’s a businessman, driven by the laws of supply and demand, not a journalist playing social worker.

In truth, I believe in capitalism more than you might suspect, given my occasional commie tendencies, but I also like to help level the playing field where possible, as Perillo seemed to appreciate.

“You’re a kind soul, and you’re for the underdog, and for that I take my hat off to you,” he said. I’m going to print that on my business card.

Perillo, 69, considers himself an underdog who grew up poor on the West Side. His mother was from Italy. His father died when he was 13. Now his dealerships sell BMW, Bentley, Lamborghini, Bugatti, Rolls Royce and Maserati automobiles.

But it’s real estate that seems to be his bigger passion.

“I own a lot of property,” Perillo said. “I’m intrigued by real estate.”

The Rosemoor, 1622 W. Jackson, is a four-story brick building with 121 spartan rooms — each of them with about 186 square feet of space.

Perillo said the building was a “slum” full of drug dealers, prostitutes and pimps when he bought it and that he set out to “get rid of all the troublemakers.”

“We had guys hustling the tenants. I don’t want my name associated with anything like that,” he added.

“We can’t meld good people with thugs,” said Perillo, who has been renting out rooms to young professionals as rooms are remodeled with a new bed, toilet and flat-screen TV.

Having met a few of the holdover tenants, they didn’t strike me as thugs, more like poor unfortunates.

“No, they’re not all thugs,” Perillo conceded.

Perillo is currently marketing the property as the Rosemoor Suites but says it will eventually be known as the Hotel Chicago — catering to extended stay guests from nearby Rush Hospital and University of Illinois–Chicago.

“If anyone can pay $350 a week, and they don’t do anything illegal or immoral, they can stay there for the rest of their lives,” he said.

If they could pay $350 a week, they wouldn’t have been living there in the first place.


Twitter: @MarkBrownCST

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