“We may be closing today and paying off the bank,” she said on April 26. “The space is not for sale. It was never for sale. This has all been misunderstood.”
Reached by phone today, Gouletas said she was “still working” with Republic.
“You know how lawyers work,” she said. “They have to cross their T’s and point their I’s.”
A lawyer representing the Republic in the bankruptcy case was not immediately available. Bankruptcy trustee Robert Handler said he was not aware of any pending agreement between Gouletas and Republic.
Hilco, meanwhile, is moving forward with plans to sell the property, which includes the 5,200 square foot restaurant on the 70th floor and approximately 2,400 square feet of retail space on the second floor of the building. The deadline for bids will be late spring or early summer, said Stephen Madura, senior vice president at Hilco, a Highland Park-based unit of Hilco Global.
Madura isn’t ruling out a sale to a restaurant owner, but thinks the odds are in favor of a residential buyer. The restaurant sector is still struggling to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, while demand for high-end residential real estate is strong.
“Over the past six months to a year, we’ve seen a tremendous increase in the desire for residential assets,” Madura said.
Hilco isn’t marketing the property with an asking price, and Madura wouldn’t guess what it might fetch. Although a residential conversion could run into the millions, the outlay could be well worth it for a developer or wealthy buyer, given the property’s lakeside location – it’s the only high-rise to east of DuSable Lake Shore Drive – and its view.
“Being up there really feels like you’re in the middle of Lake Michigan,” Madura says.
The City is open, but it’s still losing money, according to a recent court filing. The restaurant generated operating cash flow of -$61,075 in March and ended the month with $147,812 in cash, according to a recent court filing.
The property has experienced financial difficulties in the past. In 2012, Gouletas faced a $5.7 million foreclosure lawsuit over the restaurant and commercial space, but she managed to retain ownership of the property. She refinanced it with a $3.8 million loan from Republic in 2015.
In November 2021, about two years after Republic filed its foreclosure action, the Cook County Sheriff evicted City from the building. A few days later, the Gouletas company, which owns the restaurant and space, filed a Chapter 11 petition in the US bankruptcy court in Chicago. Judge Janet Baer appointed Handler as the property’s trustee in March.