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15-story Dana Hotel expansion rejected by local Alderman

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The development was blocked on the grounds of the hotel consistently acting as a “bad neighbor”

42nd Ward
42nd Ward

A glassy 15-story addition to River North’s Dana Hotel has failed to earn the support of the local alderman—effectively halting the project in its current form. Proposed to replace a vacant lot plus a handful of older low-rise buildings at 12-22 W. Erie Street, the plan was blocked by Alderman Brendan Reilly (42nd) after his office received an “unprecedented” volume of complaints regarding the operations of the existing Dana Hotel.

So-called “quality of life” issues including excessive noise, poor valet practices, and alleged lewd activity by hotel guests were voiced by a number of residents in attendance of a March meeting co-hosted by Alderman Reilly, the River North Residents Association, and developers Rebel Hospitality and Neighborhood Development Corp. In an email newsletter to constituents on Friday, Reilly explained his rationale behind nixing the project.

Much of the community meeting focused on the numerous, current and long-time quality-of-life complaints about the Dana Hotel operators being "consistently bad neighbors" and showing "total indifference" when residential neighbors asked them to address concerns. Since the Community Meeting, I have received new reports that, when neighbors have reached-out to the Dana Hotel to report quality-of-life concerns, they have been ignored.

Frankly, reports of new quality-of-life abuses coming from the Dana Hotel property - at the very same time they are seeking community support for their significant expansion - do not surprise me at all.

Designed by Chicago-based Eckenhoff Saunders Architects, the addition would have featured 178 guest rooms, a ground floor restaurant, sidewalk cafe, outdoor pool, green roof, and a fully-enclosed event and conference space at its crown. In the spring of 2014, the development team first approached Reilly’s office with a 26-story, 255-foot design. That proposal, however, was scaled back at the Alderman’s urging before it ever saw the harsh light of a public meeting.

As seen in the two stacking diagrams from the recent presentation (below), the site’s existing zoning of DX-5 allows the construction of a 149-foot hotel with 90 guest rooms. The density bonus that was requested—and subsequently denied—would have nearly doubled total key count to 178 but increased building height by less than 15 feet. The proposal’s 3.1 points of additional Floor Area Ratio would have paid roughly $1.5 million into Chicago’s Neighborhood Opportunity Fund.

Existing zoning.
42nd Ward
Requested zoning.
42nd Ward

While the Alderman suggested that the developer consider pursuing a project “as of right” without zoning bonuses in his email, it’s unlikely that any sort of development would take place at this site without the Dana first cleaning up its act and making amends with immediate neighbors. Fifty/50 Restaurant Group has already replaced Vertigo—the Dana’s often problematic rooftop DJ bar—with a supposedly more subdued cocktail lounge concept known as Apogee.

Alderman Reilly’s denial of the Erie Street addition is the second major development blocked by Chicago’s Vice Mayor in recent months. In April, the elected official announced that he would not support the zoning change requested by a different developer to build a 60-story combination hotel/timeshare/condo tower at the corner of Superior and Wabash.