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Shortened Hotel Proposal Reintroduced to Old Town Residents

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On Monday night Old Town residents were presented with an updated proposal for a boutique-style hotel concept slated to replace O'Brien's Restaurant & Bar and its accompanying parking lot located at 1528 N. Wells St. The 140,000-square-foot proposal is a collaboration between Chicago-based Condor Partners and Chicago Development Partners and calls for between 175 and 200 hotel rooms averaging approximately 350-square-feet in size and will include multiple food and beverage offerings. Design duties are being handled by Chicago's Pappageorge Haymes Partners. At 12 stories plus a rooftop penthouse, the height of the proposal has been considerably reduced since the developers last presented an 18-story plan to the community in early December.

Sol Barket of Condor, who previously served as managing partner for Centrum's nearby Hotel Lincoln project, said that the aesthetic inspiration behind the concept comes from the Bowery Hotel in New York and features other turn-of-the-century design elements such as gas lanterns and large warehouse-style paned glass windows. The developers are hoping their hotel will compliment the unique identity of the area and plan to incorporate the detailed iron pattern of the Old Town neighborhood gateway signage into various aspects of the design, such as the decorative pergola atop the building's planned rooftop terrace. Designers will look to repeat this same motif throughout the hotel's interior.

Envisioned not only as an amenity reserved for guests, the team pitched the hotel as a gathering spot for the local community. O'Brien's Restaurant (and its recognizable green and gold clock) will return to the ground floor along with a patisserie off the lobby. The hotel's second floor will feature a high-end, white tablecloth restaurant operated by one of Chicago's "top groups" — think Boka, Gibson's, Lettuce Entertain You, etc. — and will feature punched openings and an outdoor terrace for al fresco dining opportunities. The hotel's top level will be occupied by a rooftop bar with a limited food menu in a similar vein to the Hotel Lincoln's J. Parker. All of these entertainment spaces will be available for members of the community to reserve for private events.

Since the design was last presented to neighbors, the building's overall height has come from 18 stories down to roughly 13. The pedestrian experience along Wells has also been refined with the frontage being broken up into three distinct facades as opposed to the more monolithic appearance previously presented. The building now sports a total of eight setbacks to add visual interest and shift its perceived bulk away from the street. Instead of stretching the hotel all the way west to Weiland, a residential street, the proposed Planned Development (PD) calls for four single family homes to be built on 91-foot by 31-foot lots fronting Weiland. While the site's underlying zoning could potentially allow the construction of five six-flats or a single 30-unit residential building on Wieland in addition to the hotel, the development team decided it to arrange most of the proposal's density away from the residential street and more towards the commercial district on Wells Street.

Parking and congestion are a bones of contention when it comes to most development proposals and 1528 N. Wells is no different. But by referring to the current parking demands of Hotel Lincoln as model, the developers calculated that the 60 below grade parking spaces included in their proposal will be adequate when combined with existing area valet and public lots. Each single family home will contain two underground parking spots accessed via the project's only curb-cut, located on Wells and carried-over from O'Brien's. Vehicle congestion in the area, explained Howard Weiner, principal at Chicago Development Partners, is partly a function of Wells Street's confusing, hard-to-read mess of overlapping and contradictory signs for parking, loading, and valet zones. While a full traffic study by KLOA Consultants is forthcoming, the development team also made a commitment to take a look at streamlining and consolidating the roughly 90 parking signs that line Wells between North Avenue and Schiller.

After the presentation some residents voiced their support of the proposal while others expressed their objections to the project's height and density and the fact that the developers were seeking a PD rather than building within the site's existing zoning. The meeting concluded with 27th Ward Alderman Walter Burnett, Jr. addressing the audience as he thanked the neighbors for their ongoing feedback regarding the ever-evolving project. The Alderman also took the opportunity to explain to the room that the zoning change that comes with the Planned Development process leads to more oversight, community feedback, and compromise compared to any as-of-right development. Burnett reminded residents that Old Town is part of the greater Chicago Central Area Plan and city planners are not only expecting the area to build-up more density and experience commercial growth, but Chicago's financial future depends on such developments occurring. The hotel project at 1528 N. Wells is expected to bring $3,354,000 of additional tax revenue to the city.

·18-Story Luxury Hotel Would 'Destroy' Old Town's Character, Neighbors Say [DNAinfo]
·Boutique Hotel Boom Expanding to Chicago's Neighborhoods [Curbed Chicago]
·Previous Hotel Boom Town Coverage [Curbed Chicago]
·Previous Old Town Coverage [Curbed Chicago]