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Shortened Streeterville hotel still faces stiff opposition from neighbors over alley access

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The glassy hotel slated for 237 E. Ontario features a highly contentious alley-accessed porte-cochere

In the ten months since plans for an unnamed, 24-story limited service hotel proposed for the long-vacant former Museum of Contemporary Art space at 237 E. Ontario were first publicly shown to Streeterville neighbors, things have been far from stationary behind the scenes. Now known as Aloft Chicago Mag Mile, the project by New York developer Tishman Realty and architect Valerio Dewalt Train Associates has shrunk to 19 stories and seen room count slashed from 395 down to 336.

Despite the reduction in height and density, Crain’s reports that the site’s immediate neighbors have organized in opposition to the development’s traffic plan and the decision to locate the hotel’s porte-cochere off the alley. Designed with the aim of minimizing double-parked vehicles along Ontario, the plan calls for a valet drop-off area to be located entirely within the building envelope and would widen the eastern alley by three feet to allow two-way traffic.

Though the scheme was reviewed by the development team’s own traffic engineers and received the blessing of the Chicago Department of Transportation, the neighboring Ivy Hotel, Arts Club of Chicago, and 600 N. Fairbanks condo building—all three of which share Aloft’s side and rear alleys—believe the plan would have a negative effect on Streeterville’s traffic flow.

The coalition has even gone as far as launching a website (alleysarealleys.org) to argue their case and see the project’s valet zone moved directly onto Ontario Street. The group also opposes the rear placement of the hotel’s loading docks, but it is unclear where trucks would load if not off the alley way.

It’s still too early to see what, if any, impact these alley crusaders will have on the project moving forward. Given the site’s generous underlying zoning of DX-12, even the original 24-story design was proposed without the need for Tishman to pursue a Planned Development (PD). According to the developer’s website, 237 E. Ontario is anticipated to be completed by the winter of 2018. Given the Aloft’s previously reported construction timeline of 18 months, the hotel is likely looking at a mid 2017 start date.

Chicago’s hospitality segment continues to be strong as developers seize on opportunities to build limited service, mid-rise hotels featuring little to no on-site parking. For instance, the proposal at 237 E. is located directly across the street from the narrow 21-story, 195-room Hotel EMC2 which is expected to open in March. Similar projects are also in the works at 100 W. Huron, 330 N. Clark, and the northwest corner of Hubbard and LaSalle.