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'No change' on Chester hotel project

By Pete Spitler
Posted on 12/21/2016, 1:50 PM

As the calendar prepares to flip to 2017, the Holiday Inn Express project on Lehmen Drive in Chester sits idle.

James Best, of the Chester Hotel Group, told the Herald Tribune last Friday that there was nothing new on the project"s status.

"There"s nothing to say," he said. "There"s no change, so when things get going I"ll let you know."

Best then declined to answer any further questions.

Best and his partners - along with general contractor VIP Remodeling and Construction - broke ground on the project on September 14, 2015 and workers completed a retaining wall and installation of utilities before construction was halted due to required changes in the design of the HVAC system.

Earlier this spring, Best told the newspaper he was still waiting on the InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), which owns the Holiday Inn brand, to approve the changes before construction could recommence.

"We had to redesign the HVAC system and we"re just in the delay process," Best said at the time. "Nothing negative, nothing project-stopping. Just delays."

IHG Corporate Communications Manager Ada Hatzios told the Herald Tribune last Friday she was not personally familiar with the Chester project, but would check with the organization's development team and contact the newspaper with an update.

On Tuesday, Hatzios contacted the Herald Tribune via email and stated she was checking into details on the project and waiting for further information.

"Often times, construction does get delayed," Hatzios said last week.

Originally, the Chester Hotel Group stated it hoped the $5 million hotel - which was to feature 65 rooms, indoor pool, convention center and workout facility while creating 14 to 16 jobs - would be complete by April 2016.

The project also included a 50" x 100" detached restaurant, which Best previously said would come after the hotel was completed.

Contacted again this spring, Best said he hoped the hotel would be open by July 1, a date that came and went with no further apparent progress on the site.

"The hotel is going to be built on its own time, not mine," Best said this spring. "I have no idea whatsoever."

Another apparently idle project is the proposed Taco Bell on the former Pizza Hut site in the Chester Center. Chester Mayor Tom Page was asked last week for a status update on that project.

"I have not heard a word," he said. "The last thing they told me, which was every bit of a month ago, was (Chester Center owner Joe Koppeis) was going to arrange a meeting with me and the developer and that never happened."

The Pizza Hut building was demolished in December of 2015 after being vacant since the business closed in March 2007. Prior to that, Pizza Hut served the Chester community for 30 years.

Koppeis is also working on a redevelopment project for the former Apple Tree Inn site in Murphysboro near the intersection of State Route 127 and Route 13.

In addition, the City of Chester is working with the Illinois Department of Transportation to eventually add a turn lane into the Chester Center and eliminate some of the multitude of entrances into the complex that create traffic hazards.

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