Hofbräuhaus developer says negativity is hurting the project

The developer of the Hofbräuhaus, Hyatt Place hotel and restaurant complex planned for Illinois 15 in Belleville has sent a letter to city leaders defending his work and asking for their support against criticism of the project.

“After two years of attempting to smile while hearing of falsehoods and innuendoes about us, our businesses and our family, we ask simply that people not interfere and rather allow us to do what we said we would do,” wrote Chuck Keller, patriarch of the Effingham family developing the project.

He urged city leaders to “please discourage others from attempting to drive away our potential tenants and business partners with innuendo and negativity.”

“Let’s work together, create job growth and make Belleville ‘hometown proud,’” Keller wrote in the email sent Monday.

Questions have been raised about project’s construction timeline because the development near the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows was announced early last year, and aldermen granted $38 million in tax incentives for the site, but none of the businesses planned for the complex have opened yet.

The tax incentives are based on revenue generated at the complex. However, the city is paying more than $2 million to extend sewer lines to the site.

Keller could not be reached this week for additional comment on his letter, but he said earlier in the month that delays on the Belleville project have not frustrated him.

Ward 2 Alderman Mike Buettner has voted against most of the tax incentives for the project.

“I just have some concerns. It’s not being negative, I hope it goes,” Buettner said.

But he said the city has “a lot of money” invested in the project, and he wants to be a good steward of the city’s finances.

“We’ve got a sewer line going out there that is just about complete, and what are we going to hook it up to?”

“They haven’t delivered anything that they promised,” Buettner said. “I have constituents ask me all the time what is going on out there, and we need to have some answers.”

Plans for an 11-field soccer complex were announced last year, but work never started as initially expected.

Buettner said if the soccer park is not built, he doesn’t think the Hofbräuhaus project can succeed.

Chuck Keller’s son, Chane Keller, said earlier this month that negotiations are still underway with the Overland Park, Kan.-based Global Sports International to locate a multisport complex in Belleville. David Thorman, who had been representing Global Sports International through his company, Game On Sports Development, died in July.

Here are other updates on the project:

▪  Keller is finalizing details with another potential tenant and business partner, but he could not yet announce this company.

▪  Earlier this month, Keller said he hopes to have the Hofbräuhaus open by May 1. Ron O’Connor, a spokesman for the Keller family, said making the May 1 opening date depends upon the weather over the winter because the roads and parking lots for the development will have to be built in the spring.

“There’s a lot of cement and asphalt that has to be put down,” O’Connor said.

Construction began on the Hofbräuhaus late last year. The Kellers initially targeted a June 1 opening and then a fall opening. O’Connor has said construction on the German brewery and restaurant is more than half finished.

▪  Keller told aldermen a franchise agreement has been signed for a Hyatt Place. O’Connor said Keller is still “presenting plans for a Hyatt Place” and that Keller expects Hyatt to make a formal announcement around Nov. 30.

A spokesman for Hyatt could not be reached for comment.

▪  O’Connor said Utah-based ICON Commercial Lending will own 50 percent of the hotel, restaurant and conference center, and the other half will be owned by the Keller family and a group of investors. Keller said ICON has committed up to $30 million to build and furnish the hotel. The Keller family would operate and manage the hotel, restaurant and conference center.

In a news conference earlier this month, the Kellers said the hotel is expected to open in 2018 and that the Shrine hotel would remain open until the new hotel is ready.