Route 66 News

Bel-Aire Motel owner now wants to sell

The owner of the historic Bel-Aire Motel in Springfield, Illinois, wants to sell his troubled property for $750,000, plus more than $114,000 in fines he owes to the city for code violations, reported the Springfield State Journal-Register.

Florida-based Gopal Motwani, who’s owned the motel for nearly 30 years, says health problems and the latest round of more than 700 code violations cited by the city influenced his decision to put the Route 66 motel on the market.

It also seems likely a recent article by the newspaper — how children of the previous owner said they are embarrassed by its deterioration — also played a role.

Even so, it’s arguable that Motwani still is asking too much for the property:

The Sangamon County assessor’s office listed the fair-market value of the Bel-Aire at a little more than $739,000 in 2013 for property taxes payable this year. The tax bill was listed at $20,718. The assessment is down from a peak of just over $879,000 for 2006 taxes payable in 2007. […]

“It’s well publicized the amount of work that is needed to bring it up to code,” said Tillett, who added that buyers likely would face at least a $1 million investment to purchase the property, pay penalties and redevelop the site.

Ward 6 Ald. Cory Jobe, whose ward includes the Bel-Aire, said he doubts anyone would pay $750,000, plus the building-code penalties, adding that he would like to see the city take stronger action to condemn the property and aid relocation of residents. […]

Jobe said it likely would take some combination of city and state incentives to attract private development to the site.

Most of the people in the earlier article talked about the motel in the past tense, as if it will have to be developed into some other purpose. But there are several long-closed or very marginal motels on Route 66 — the Campbell Hotel in Tulsa comes to mind — that were converted into something grand.

What it will take is a lower asking price, a lot of rehab, and for the city to waive the code violations in return for a good-faith effort to fix the problems.

The city a few years ago proposed buying the circa-1950 property and converting it into a Route 66 tourism center or museum. But it lacked the money, and the idea was quietly dropped. And Mayor Timothy Davlin, who championed the idea, committed suicide in 2010.

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