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New Chinatown Hotel and Public Library Taking Shape

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At the six point intersection of Cermak, Archer and Princeton in Chinatown, a new hotel is close to completion after moving through its construction phases at a glacial pace. Part of the reason for the slow speed was a redesign after permits had been issued, as the building was previously intended to stand at four stories with 72 rooms. However, a design modification added on a fifth floor and brought the total count to 108 hotel rooms. Preliminary review and approval for the larger version of the building occurred last October.

Before construction, the site had sat vacant for about 17 years. A four story hospital building that once occupied the property was demolished in 1997. While the new structure won't win any design awards, all four sides are clad in brick and the building does a great job at enclosing this particular corner of the intersection in a urban format, a stark contrast to the neighbors across the street which include two drive through banks and a Walgreen's with a surface parking lot in front of the store.

One block to the northeast at Archer and Wentworth, work on the Chinatown Branch Library is moving along. The two story building's highly transparent glass facade is nearly complete and awaits the placement of vertical fins, which while providing the appearance of a textured exterior, will also provide shading and reduce energy consumption by limiting solar heat gain. The library was designed by Chicago-based Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM), a firm that is known for designing some of the city's tallest towers including the Willis "Sears" Tower, Trump and Hancock but hasn't seen many local commissions as of late, despite its important role in Chicago. The library's rounded form makes it stand out visually among its neighbors, but it also allows for better neighborhood circulation. A pedestrian pathway will be formed on the west side of the new building, while to the south, the curvilinear exterior is aligned to the future bend planned for Wentworth Avenue.

The proposed adjustment in Wentworth Avenue's alignment is being planned as Phase 1 of the Wells-Wentworth Connector project which places a new arterial street from Chinatown northward through the Riverside Park property which Related Midwest intends to develop and links up with Wells Street where it presently dead ends next to the back side of the Roosevelt Collection. Phase 1 will mitigate the 'T intersections' presently created by Wentworth meeting Cermak Road at two different points through creating a single four-way intersection. The moving of Wentworth will require the demolition of three buildings located at 202-208 West Cermak Road, housing the Three Happiness and the Catonesia restaurants as well as the International Bank of Chicago. While having modified ground floors, the restaurants do contain some arts and crafts detailing on the vintage pre-war buildings. It does appear however that demolition is not imminent at this time.

Shawn Ursini

·Chinatown Library [SOM]
·Wells-Wentworth Connector [City of Chicago]
·Previous Wells-Wentworth Connector coverage [Curbed Chicago]
·Previous Chinatown coverage [Curbed Chicago]