Concerns In Pere Marquette Deal

Money woes for the developer of a pair of downtown Peoria hotels come at a bad time for city officials.

Gary Matthews, whose EM Properties owns the Pere Marquette and Courtyard by Marriott, is apparently facing tough financial times. Foreclosure has begun on some of his Tazewell County properties, and Matthews is accused of being millions of dollars behind on mortgage payments and other financial responsibilities.

The news comes as the city, which has invested $37 million in the hotels, is considering approving EM Properties' request to allow FHG to take over management of the Pere Marquette and Courtyard from Marriott. If the deal goes through, city officials say the Marriott flag would likely not drop from the hotels; rather, Marriott would simply not be responsible for the day-to-day operation.

While Matthews' financial issues are concerning, they don't necessarily spell out doom for the future of the hotels.

"Our legal team is looking into that a little bit more," said City Manager Patrick Urich. "For us, we're going to have to ascertain what element of additional risk, if any, it carries."

Urich says the problems Matthew faces also doesn't mean the city's investment in the hotels will wind up as a loss.

"I think it just underscores our need to make sure that our legal rights are protected. And we're going to vigorously do that," Urich said.

The City Council has been weighing its options with the hotel management change for more than a month. While the issue does appear on the agenda for Tuesday night's meeting, Urich says it will likely not be decided at that time.

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