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More woes at downtown Elgin Tower Building: Water was shut off by city, but bill now is paid

The ElgTower Building East Chicago Street Elgin. May 17 2013  | Michael Smart~Sun-Times Media

The Elgin Tower Building on East Chicago Street in Elgin. May 17, 2013 | Michael Smart~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: February 21, 2014 6:19AM

ELGIN — Elgin City Manager Sean Stegall confirmed Friday night that water had been shut off at the iconic Tower Building downtown due to nonpayment of its water bill. But the bill apparently was paid by sometime early Saturday afternoon.

Stegall said that the building’s owner had been notified that he should remit $1,566.37 to have service resumed. If no payment was received, the condemnation process was to begin Tuesday.

“Non-payment of water bills continues to be an issue that the city has experienced with the owner of the Tower Building,” Stegall said.

The “he’ in question would be attorney Neal Pitcher, who has an office in the building and who heads the nonprofit William R. Stickling Foundation, which owns and oversees the operation of the Tower Building, at 100 E. Chicago St.

The 15-story building opened in 1929 as a bank just before the start of the Great Depression. The organization is named after the late Bill Stickling, who bought the building in 1978 and owned it until his death in 1999.

Via email Saturday, Pitcher stated, “The water bill has been paid. I received offers from several individuals unassociated with the building this morning offering to anonymously pay it for us. That was nice to hear, but we didn’t need it.”

Pitcher said five tenants remain in the building.

In one form or another, water woes have deluged the Elgin’s tallest building in recent years.

On Jan. 10, a broken water pipe in the Tower Building’s upper, unheated floors led to significant flooding in the Downtown Neighborhood Association office on the main floor and to several other floors. The DNA has since relocated to the Leath Building, 166 E. Chicago St.

Last February, a small water line supplying a sink on the unoccupied 12th floor apparently froze over a weekend. Water trickled down several pipe shafts, the main stairwell and other openings, all the way to the basement in the case of the main pipe shaft, with water dripping out of a few light fixtures on the 11th through eighth floors.

That February, a DNA board member also bailed out the foundation by paying for overdue elevator inspections, which the building passed to stay open.

In December 2010, struggles with paying its bills led to a meeting between the Stickling Foundation and William Cogley, the city’s corporate counsel. At the time, the city offered to help the group make ends meet, with stipulations that the board members step aside and that the city see the foundation’s books.

However, the foundation turned down the offer. It paid what it owed ComEd and made a payment of more than $1,300 to the city for what it owed in water bills. Other payments, including back taxes, also were made.

New owner eyed

Wisconsin-based Gorman & Co. is working out the details of a deal to purchase and renovate the structure.

In the city’s 2014 financial plan, the Central Area Tax Increment Finance District has a proposed budget of about $11.3 million that includes a loan of $5 million from the general fund which is “necessary for the city to participate in the proposed Tower Building renovation with economic development assistance. The loan will also help fund the final phase of the Central Business District streetscape improvements,” the document states.

Gorman is hoping to purchase the Tower Building for about $1.15 million. The agreement is contingent upon 12 points, including an environmental review, inspection, review of existing leases, Gorman being able to get zoning, permits and approvals for its project, and Gorman being able to find grants and investors.

The contingencies also include Gorman being able to get financing through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Gorman intends to develop the Tower as an apartment complex using federal and state historical tax credits.

The 2014 budget document states the Tower renovation would include “45 high-quality market-rate one- and two-bedroom apartments.” Under consideration is putting $3.5 million of TIF money toward the effort.

On Saturday, Pitcher stated, “I am expecting a call from Gorman next week to discuss an extension of the contract to buy the building. I know that they want until the end of this year to decide if they want to invest in it.”

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