by HEATHER CARNES
In mid-April, AAHOA Member Jesal Patel earned the nod as the next mayor of the Village of Lincolnwood, Ill., an inner suburb of Chicago in Cook County. Patel, the owner of Patel Realty and an AAHOA Member for 20 years, has served in various capacities within the Lincolnwood government and has called this village his home for several decades. Patel, also an AAHOA Upper Midwest Region Ambassador, took a few minutes out of his day as a government leader, entrepreneur, and business owner to talk about his experience and plans, and why it’s important for those in the hotel industry to be politically active.
CAN YOU TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOURSELF, YOUR FAMILY, AND HOW YOU GOT STARTED IN THE HOTEL BUSINESS?
Jesal Patel: I have been involved in real estate from a young age. I like to tell the story of how I made my first hotel deal at just 10 years old. Granted, it was after securing the marquee properties of Boardwalk and Park Place in the game of Monopoly, but the lessons learned in that game have been invaluable to me ever since. My family business, Patel Realty, was founded in 1995, and I have worked with my father, Babu (Marsha) Patel, and my brother, Adesh, ever since. We have extensive experience in all areas of real estate working as brokers, developers, investors, and consultants, with a focus in the retail and hospitality industries.
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR EXPERIENCE WITH AAHOA, AND HOW HAVE YOU BEEN INVOLVED THROUGH THE YEARS?
JP: I have been an AAHOA Member since 2001 and have regularly attended events in that time. In 2015, I became more involved and was asked to become an Ambassador for AAHOA. My role as Ambassador has been very rewarding, both professionally and personally. I look forward to continuing to advocate for our industry to affect meaningful change.
YOU’VE BEEN A PRIME EXAMPLE OF GETTING INVOLVED IN GRASSROOTS ADVOCACY THAT SUPPORTS SMALL BUSINESS OWNERS DURING YOUR CAREER. WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT TO YOU?
JP: Our industry is often overlooked despite its strength and importance in the economy. Our advocacy gives us a seat at the table rather than a place on the menu.
KNOWING YOU’VE BEEN INVOLVED IN YOUR LOCAL COMMUNITY OF LINCOLNWOOD, IL, FOR MORE THAN A DECADE, WHAT HAS THE EXPERIENCE BEEN LIKE FOR YOU? WHY WERE YOU COMPELLED TO GET INVOLVED AT THE LOCAL LEVEL?
JP: Having lived most of my life in Lincolnwood and with my business based here, I have a strong attachment to the community. My experience handling entitlements as a developer led me to my role in local government. I brought a different perspective to our Village Board and learned a lot about the entitlement process, in turn, making me a better developer.
WHAT PROMPTED YOU TO RUN FOR MAYOR OF LINCOLNWOOD?
JP: Having served as a Village Trustee for most of my adult life, the move to mayor was a natural one. While serving as a trustee, I was able to present and advance plans, but the ability to guide the Village toward the progress I have sought is reserved for the mayor’s seat.
TELL US ABOUT SOME OF YOUR INITIATIVES FOR LINCOLNWOOD REGARDING ENTREPRENEURSHIP, DEVELOPMENT, AND SUPPORTING SMALL BUSINESSES.
JP: I’ve been a strong advocate for business development throughout my tenure on the board. From the creation of tax increment financing districts to revisions in the zoning code welcoming a wider range of businesses, my efforts have led directly to more than $150 million in new developments in Lincolnwood.
DO YOU HAVE PLANS TO RUN FOR HIGHER OFFICE?
JP: My focus is on serving my community as mayor. In my service, I will surely continue to learn and grow and so I will leave the door for future service open. Come on in and let’s talk about it.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO AAHOA MEMBERS THINKING OF RUNNING FOR ELECTED OFFICE?
JP: If you have the time and desire to serve, then do it. After being a father and husband, my most meaningful and rewarding efforts come from those in my role in local government.
AS MAYOR, WHAT DEVELOPMENT PROJECTS FOR LINCOLNWOOD DO YOU HAVE IN THE PIPELINE?
JP: The Purple Hotel site (the original Hyatt House location) and the Lincolnwood Town Center Mall are two of our largest development sites. The Purple Hotel site is set to be redeveloped with an all-new mixed-use development, including a new dual-branded hotel dubbed District 1860. The Lincolnwood Town Center Mall has recently fallen into foreclosure and we look forward to the opportunity to attract new development at this important intersection. The linked concept plans for the two sites are prime examples of efforts that local governments can employ to attract such developments.
HOW CAN LOCAL OFFICIALS LIKE YOU MAKE A POSITIVE DIFFERENCE IN THE LIVES OF SMALL BUSINESS OWNERS?
JP: We have the perspective from our knowledge and experience that’s needed in government at all levels. Service in an advocacy role helps bring our issues in front of our legislators and allows our voices to be heard.