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Who owes millions in property taxes?
Hotels and shopping malls head the list of commercial real estate properties with big overdue bills, as COVID clobbers business.

Monday, October 12, 2020
Crain's Chicago Business
by Greg Hinz

With business clobbered by COVID-19, hotels and shopping malls lead the list of those who haven't paid their Cook County property taxes, even though the extended deadline for penalty-fee payment passed on Oct. 1.

According to data released by county Treasurer Maria Pappas, hotels operating under the Hilton and Marriott brands, as well as the tony Drake Hotel on North Michigan Avenue, have the biggest unpaid bills in the city. One of the Hiltons, the Hilton Chicago O’Hare Airport, is owned by the city of Chicago and is operated by Hilton—meaning that a hotel owned by the city is late in paying taxes that go in part to the city treasury.



In suburban Cook County, malls top the late list, including some of the biggest: Old Orchard, Northbrook Court and River Oaks, with owners of the defunct Lincoln Mall in Matteson also owing millions.

Local units of government like the city and pubic school districts will not be hurt much if the bills eventually are paid. In fact, they could come out slightly ahead, since late payments now are assessed an interest penalty of 1.5 percent a month.

2019 second tax due 2019 first tax due 2018 second date paid
Old Orchard Mall
$5,456,523
$5,456,523
Paid 7/29/19
Northbrook Court Mall
$4,218,120
$4,218,120
Paid New parcel for 2019
Retail space (14214 96th Ave., Orland Park)
$2,793,928
$2,793,928
Paid New parcel for 2019
River Oaks Mall
$2,229,671
$2,229,671
Paid 8/1/19
River Oaks Mall
$1,579,069
$1,579,069
$794,378 Unpaid
Walmart Olympia Fields
$1,510,737
$1,510,737
Paid New parcel for 2019
Lincoln Mall
$1,431,068
$1,431,068
$1,693,573 Unpaid
River Oaks Mall
$1,054,633
$1,054,633
$1,315,387 Unpaid
Retail space (9612 W. 143rd St., Orland Park)
$977,253
$977,253
Paid New parcel for 2019
Forsythe Data Center
$891,375
$891,375
Paid 8/1/19

 

 

But those penalties were suspended for 60 days on taxes that originally were due on Aug. 1, and Pappas says she’s concerned that more than half a billion dollars in bills are outstanding.

“The hard culture of America and Chicago is trust and safety,” she said. “People, tourists and conventions and families are cancelling plans to come to the city, and as a consequence, hotels and businesses are in rapid decline. . . .Who didn’t pay is a reflection of all of this, and a sad economic outcome.”

Overall, Pappas’ data indicates a majority of those who took advantage of the opportunity to pay their taxes two months late without penalty have made the taxman whole, especially residential owners. With $1.372 billion paid during that grace period, the county through Oct. 1 had collected a total of $6.978 billion of the $7.488 billion that was billed.

In comparison, in 2019, $6.564 billion was paid through the second-half deadline date of Aug. 3.

In the city, a total of $4.362 million in second-half bills is owed on property operated as the Hilton Downtown Chicago. (In the chart above, only one portion of the property is listed.) And $1.3 million is due on the Marriott W Hotel at 644 N. Lake Shore Drive. Both are owned by Virginia-based Park Hotels & Resorts, which declined comment.

Another Hilton branded hotel, at O’Hare, failed to make either the first or second half payment this year, and owes $3.5 million. A spokesman for the Chicago Department of Aviation had no immediate comment.

Not responding to a request for comment was one of the owners of the Drake, Lodging Capital Partners. Just under $1.2 million is owed on the second-half bill, according to Pappas.

Another, not so surprising failure to pay came from the Pittsfield Building at 55 E. Washington St., which is in receivership. It owes $2.07 million for the past two years.

Malls are the story in suburban Cook, as many shoppers have switched to online purchases during the pandemic.

Old Orchard Mall owner Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield failed to pay $5.5 million due on Oct. 1. The firm did not respond to a request for comment. Even larger was a combined almost $7 million in unpaid bills for River Oaks Mall in Calumet City. Co-owner Namdar Realty Group did not respond to a request for comment.

 

Also ranking high were Northbrook Court Mall, owing $4.2 million, and the former Lincoln Mall, which is being eyed for a possible gambling casino and which has more than $6 million in unpaid bills over two years.

In theory, delinquent properties eventually could be auctioned off at a scavenger sale if their owners fail to pay. But such sales have been suspended with the pandemic raging.

Crain's reporters Alby Gallun and Danny Ecker contributed.

The amount owed by the Drake has been corrected in this updated story.



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