Italian American Sports Hall of Fame, under financial cloud, to be sold
By David Roeder and Fran Spielman Staff Reporters July 23, 2013 7:06PM
Updated: August 25, 2013 6:37AM
The National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame, operating under a financial cloud, is in line to be sold. Whether the deal assures the museum’s future remains to be seen. Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration has a part of the transaction, and its goal is to keep the place open.
The museum’s pending sale was revealed in an ordinance that tears up a 1998 redevelopment agreement that included city-donated land for the museum at 1431 W. Taylor St. For a $375,000 payment to the city, the hall of fame will settle allegations that it never completed some required improvements to the property. It also will settle a complaint that it could never demonstrate it met standards for hiring minority and women contractors for its construction.
The ordinance, which could be approved Wednesday by the City Council, states that the payment will come from the museum’s expected buyer, Hall of Fame Acquisition No. 2 LLC. City officials said the company is connected to Nasser Kazeminy, an Iranian-born businessman who chairs the National Ethnic Coalition of Organizations. The group raises money for Ellis Island and supports American diversity, but its interest in Italian-American sports heroes is unknown.
A source said Kazeminy’s group has an option to purchase the museum for $3 million and already has bought its memorabilia, including a Mario Andretti racecar and Rocky Marciano’s first championship belt. Andrew Scott, a Chicago attorney for NECO, declined to comment.
Museum founder George Randazzo and “Little Italy” activist Oscar D’Angelo, who worked to move it to Taylor Street from the suburbs, did not return calls. Jerry Colangelo, former owner of the Phoenix Suns and the Arizona Diamondbacks and a major supporter of the museum, could not be reached. The museum’s property has been in foreclosure since 2010.
City Hall is forgiving legal obligations, including a requirement that the property continue as a museum for 30 years. Nevertheless, the settlement will help it survive, said Peter Strazzabosco, spokesman for the Department of Housing and Economic Development. “This is a practical solution. It keeps the museum open and operating as opposed to going dark,” he said.
ON THE MAP: The old Chicago Motor Club building at 68 E. Wacker Pl. may at last be on track for hotel conversion. A source said John Murphy, president of MB Real Estate, will acquire the Art Deco gem for less than $10 million and wants to convert the old office space into a Hampton Inn.
Murphy, best known for partnering with Peter Ricker on posh condos at 2550 N. Lakeview, also has closed on a $45 million loan from U.S. Bank for 100 W. Monroe, the source said. The building will become a Hyatt. Murphy declined to comment.
ALDERMANIC SCOOP: Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) has taken to using his electronic newsletter to break news about developments in his downtown and Near North-based ward. His latest issue carried the first rendering of a planned office tower at 400 W. Randolph, on the west bank of the Chicago River. The tower and landscaping would be built on a deck over commuter rail tracks that serve Union Station.
Details of the plan by developer John O’Donnell are under wraps, however, pending a public presentation Reilly is sponsoring with the Fulton River District Association. It’s scheduled for 6 p.m. July 31 at the Hotel Allegro, 171 W. Randolph.
DENTAL DEVELOPMENT: Sunstar Americas, a maker of toothbrushes and floss, is moving its headquarters and manufacturing from Chicago’s Northwest Side to Schaumburg. Working with the brokerage Paine/Wetzel TCN Worldwide, the company bought nearly 80 vacant acres north of I-90 and east of Roselle Road. It will have a groundbreaking Thursday on a 300,000-square-foot building and estimates it will move early in 2015.
Gregory Wright, senior vice president at Paine/Wetzel, said the firm worked with Sunstar for more than four years in its search for a larger, more modern home. The company has been in a 240,000-square-foot building at 4635 W. Foster.
Sunstar’s Chicago property, in turn, is subject to a sales contract with Jaffe Cos., which wants to redevelop the 9.2-acre site for retailers, Wright said. He said negotiations on the zoning change are ongoing.
Wright said the company expects to spend about $40 million on its new suburban home. The Archdiocese of Chicago sold the property. It’s in unincorporated Cook County but Schaumburg plans to annex it.
Sunstar said the transfer affects about 400 employees, who will get a fitness center and walking trails at the new place. If the move means the workers are stuck behind the wheel on the tollway, they’ll need the workout.
David Roeder reports on real estate at 6:22 p.m. Thursdays on WBBM-AM (780) and WBBM-FM (105.9). The reports are repeated at 10:22 p.m. Thursday and 7:22 a.m. Sunday.