Developer who tried to purchase Chase Tower under scrutiny in Chicago suburb

The Chicago businessman who wanted to buy South Bend's Chase Tower last year is now under scrutiny in another community.

According to The Chicago Tribune, the suburb of Harvey gave Satish 'Sonny' Gabhawala about $10 million to rehab a hotel.

But, the hotel is now in foreclosure and Gabhawala is in India, where he told the Chicago Tribune he plans to stay until he secures investments to complete the project.

Back in late 2011, he made a proposal to buy South Bend's Chase Tower.

As part of the deal, Gabhawala would invest nearly $13 million in the project and the city would contribute $5.7 million in taxpayer money for the garage.

But, after the common council postponed a vote on the measure several times to do more research and consider other options, Gabhawala pulled out.

Back in January 2012, Gabhawala told NewsCenter 16 after paying $300,000 in bank and legal fees during the process, he couldn't wait any longer for a decision. He also said his credibility with the bank was hurt because the closing date on the mortgage was continually pushed back.

But, Council President Derek Dieter says the council's 5-4 decision helped save South Bend from a fate similar to Harvey's. He and other council members started doing their own research on Gabhawala in December 2011 and came across disturbing details about his finances.

"Five of us believed this was a bad deal all around," he said. "All you have to do is read and look at what this person has done in the past."

Dieter says he was shocked to read about the scope of the problem in Harvey, which the Tribune reports cost taxpayers millions.

In a statement, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg said, "The administration and Council did the right thing last year by resisting pressure to take a questionable deal. For a building this important, I remain willing to support a credible plan from a credible developer—but only if the deal makes sense for taxpayers. The experience of Harvey is a cautionary tale that illustrates why we do our homework before jumping into redevelopment opportunities."

But, council member Henry Davis Jr. said over the phone the article doesn't change his perspective. He says what happened in Harvey never would have happened in South Bend because of the extensive clawback provisions outlined in the proposed deal with Gabhawala. He also said the article doesn't clearly state the developer is at fault.

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