By ZEINAB NAJM
DEARBORN — Representatives from the Edward Hotel and city of Dearborn might meet soon to discuss the status and ongoing issues of the vacant hotel.
Attorney Odey Meroueh, representing the hotel, told Crain’s Detroit Feb. 10 that his law firm was in talks with the city to reopen the hotel over the next couple of months.
“With regards to any safety violations, The Edward Hotel team has undergone a massive overhaul of the systems identified needing to be updated,” Meroueh said in a Feb. 11 email to Crain’s Detroit.
Meroueh also told Crain’s Detroit the hotel’s owner, Xiao Hua Gong, and staff made significant restorations to the fire safety, electrical, plumbing and water systems, along with other updates made to the hotel, since Gong purchased it in 2016.
In addition to “beyond eco-friendly infrastructure updates, the hotel plans two new restaurants as well as a bar and breakfast rotunda,” Meroueh said.
“While not every violation cited has been completely repaired or updated, significant progress has been made to those ends,” and the hotel plans to provide firm dates for completion of required repairs and updates when it meets with city officials, Meroueh told Crain’s Detroit in the email.
Also on Feb. 11, inspectors from the city visited the hotel and conducted an inspection after Meroueh issued a statement saying many but not all repairs have been completed, according to Crain’s Detroit. An inspection by the city also was done in November.
“According to our reports, there has not been enough significant progress made with the work that is ongoing at the hotel to suggest that a grand reopening could occur in the near future,” a statement emailed by Dearborn Digital Media Coordinator Paula Rivera said. “There are serious concerns with systems directly related to safety, including fire safety systems, which are not up to code and require substantial work.”
The permits the city has on file are for minor and emergency repairs to failing electrical and mechanical systems, which also are critical systems with necessary repairs required, according to the city’s statement.
Rivera confirmed that the city Economic and Community Development Department and Property Management and Development Services teams have had brief talks with hotel representatives.
She also said that it would be “premature and speculative” to “comment on any timelines or dates associated with these renovations.
In December 2018, the hotel abruptly closed for safety violations which included fire safety violations and because it did not have a valid certificate of occupancy or valid license to operate.
At the time, city Director of Public Information Mary Laundroche told Crain’s that the city has been working with the owner since May 2016 to renew the note’s certificate of occupancy. She also said the hotel ownership owed $1.1 million in outstanding taxes, but that was not the reason for the closure.
Currently, Gong is facing criminal charges for fraud and money laundering in Canada, and Meroueh’s lawfirm is representing the hotel in its negotiations with the city and Wayne County to resolve safety violations and delinquent tax issues, according to Crain’s Detroit.
“Under the deal, the hotel must pay off just shy of $475,000 in back taxes owed for 2017 by early September,” Crain’s Detroit reported. “The hotel is also delinquent on 2018 property taxes that totaled $606,095 as of last week. Those taxes will be subject to foreclosure in 2021.”
Crain’s Detroit added that the Edward Hotel and two other properties Gong owns in Chicago were frozen by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in October 2018, at the request of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice.
The 772-room Edward Hotel and Conference center opened in 1976 as the Hyatt Regency-Dearborn, and has undergone several name and ownership changes, including 2011 when Royal Realties purchased the hotel for $15.5 million and by Gong for $20 million in 2016.
With the new owner came the new name, Edward Hotel & Convention Center, the fourth name since 2012 when the hotel was the Hyatt. After the Hyatt came the Adoba Hotel Dearborn/Detroit, Regency Dearborn Hotel & Convention Center then Royal Dearborn Hotel & Convention Center.
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at [email protected])