Landmark Springfield hotel may still have life; zoning panel to hear a new variance request

The sale of the troubled 30-story Wyndham City Centre in downtown Springfield, Illinois, may still have life after the zoning commission found out this week it is scheduled to hear a new variance request for the property next month.

The Springfield State Journal-Register reported planning and zoning will hear the request on Sept. 21, with the possibility of the full city council deciding on it in October.

This time developer David Mitchell of GoodHomes asked for 275 apartments and 125 hotel rooms, a number favored by Mayor Jim Langfelder.

Council members thwarted votes on a variance at the July 19 meeting and a reconsideration at its Aug. 3 meeting.

The Wyndham currently operates 370 hotel rooms along with 27 apartments. It is owned by Al Rajabi of San Antonio, Texas.

Rajabi has championed the sale of the hotel to Mitchell’s group, which also wants to install an observation deck and a food court as a $40 million refurbishment.

Rajabi and Tower Capital Group in 2019 bought the Wyndham in a foreclosure sale and are still in debt from that deal. The property also has a lien of about $839,000 against it for nonpayment of city utilities.

The Wyndham originally opened as the Forum 30 Plaza Hotel in 1974, which means the hotel can attain historic status in two years.

Over the years, it was renamed Hilton Towers in 1980, Springfield Hilton and Hilton Springfield. It became a Wyndham in 2015.

The hotel has served as the headquarters — officially and unofficially — for the Illinois Route 66 Mother Road Festival for nearly 20 years.

The Wyndham, at 352 feet tall, remains the highest skyscraper in Springfield. Due to its phallic shape, it’s been nicknamed “Penis of the Prairie” by locals for many years.

(Image of the Wyndham City Centre in Springfield, Illinois, by Michael Barera via Wikicommons)

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