Welcome To Lincoln Square, Mr. Wirtz

Crain’s reported today that Peter Wirtz has purchased 4717-29 N. Lincoln for $6.1mm from Tom Fencl, who owns The Davis at 4614 N. Lincoln. Mr. Fencl says he will use some of the proceeds from the sale to refurbish the theater. The sale closed on Jan. 4.
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Peter Wirtz turns to real estate with Lincoln Square buy

By: Eddie Baeb February 02, 2011

(Crain’s) — A venture that includes former Chicago Blackhawks vice-president Peter Wirtz has acquired a retail and apartment building in the heart of Lincoln Square.

Mr. Wirtz’s venture paid $6.1 million for the property at 4717-4729 N. Lincoln Ave., property records show. Longtime tenants include restaurant and pastry shop Cafe Selmarie, Degerberg Academy of Martial Arts & Fitness and German tavern Huettenbar.

Property records show that Mr. Wirtz’s company, Chicago-based Bismarck Enterprises Inc., is both an equity investor in the property and a lender, providing a short-term $4-million loan. Bismarck’s partners in the deal include local investor Mark Timmerman and Michael Krueger.

A call to Mr. Wirtz at Bismarck, which for about 15 years ran food service at the United Center, was referred to Mr. Krueger.

“I was really drawn to the location,” says Mr. Krueger, whose firm LakePointe Apartments LLC has several apartment properties, including a recently completed one in Uptown. “When an asset like this becomes available, you can’t pass it by. When that opportunity presents itself and the numbers make sense, you’ve got to pounce on it.”

The building, about halfway between Lawrence and Leland avenues, has seven fully leased retail spaces totaling about 21,500 square feet and 22 apartments on two upper levels.

Mr. Krueger wouldn’t comment on the price, financing or his connection to Mr. Wirtz, who stepped down as vice-president of the Blackhawks in October 2007, just a week after the death of his father, Bill Wirtz. Mr. Wirtz’s older brother, Rocky, instead became team president and Peter Wirtz left to focus on Bismarck, a company he founded in 1983.

According to the firm’s Web site, Bismarck focuses on foodservice, merchandising, consulting and “has ventured into real estate investments” in recent years.

Peter Wirtz has largely been out of the news since leaving the Blackhawks. In spring 2009, Bismarck announced it had sold its concessions contract at United Center to Chicago’s Levy Restaurants and would focus more on foodservice consulting.

The 4717-29 N. Lincoln Ave. building was sold by Tom Fencl of Fencl Properties Inc., which is based in Lincoln Square. Mr. Fencl bought the property about seven years ago and says he plans to use the sale proceeds to help pay for an overhaul of another notable Lincoln Square property he owns: the four-screen Davis Theater at 4614 N. Lincoln.

The plans, though in early stages, call for rehabbing the almost 100-year-old theater’s interiors and exteriors and converting from film projectors to digital. Work probably won’t get under way until next year, Mr. Fencl says.

“It’s not an easy project to finance at times like these,” he says. “Every single bank we would go to would say, ‘We don’t lend money to movie theaters or bowling alleys.’”

Property records show Bismarck’s $4-million loan to Mr. Krueger’s venture matures June 30, suggesting Mr. Krueger is in the market for permanent financing.

Mr. Krueger says he plans to make modest changes and upgrades to the building.

The sale has raised some concerns that the property’s local flavor could be endangered. The building also includes a kitschy gift store, Enjoy, an Urban General Store, a Chase bank branch and Planet Access Company Store, a clothing boutique run by a non-profit that helps disabled people.

“We hope the new owners keep the building up and keep a mix of locals and independents,” says Melissa Flynn, executive director of the Lincoln Square Chamber of Commerce, who also noted that concerts and public events are held at the adjacent Giddings Plaza. “It’s really just a cornerstone in the community.”

At least some tenants, of course, are anxious that their rents could be going up.

“I hope they’re not thinking of fixing the place up a little and then think they’re going to raise the rents,” says Fred Degerberg, owner of the prominent Degerberg Academy, which has been at its Lincoln Square location since the 1980s. “We’ve got hundreds of students there, but we’ve also lost hundreds in the recession.”

Andrew Schroedter contributed to this report.
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Welcome Mr. Wirtz!

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