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Site of stalled River North condo project turns to shorter apartment-style hotel development

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The five-story proposal replaces earlier plans for a skinny 12-story tower

42nd Ward

After struggling to get its 12-story luxury condominium project at 61 W. Erie Street off the ground, property owner LG Development is now pitching a five-story hotel building for the long-vacant River North site.

The Sonder brand is the proposed operator of the boutique hospitality project, which will provide 29 hotel suites designed to look more like high-end apartments than a traditional downtown hotel.

Sonder is aggressively growing its footprint in Chicago and offers short-term rentals in the historic Plymouth Building and the recently completed Essex on the Park high-rise. The company is also renovating the Waterman Building at 127 S. State Street.

A rendering of the 12-story, 10-unit condo project originally planned for 61 W. Erie.
Courtesy NORR Architects

The revised plan for 61 W. Erie complies with the site’s existing zoning and will not need to be approved by the city. It includes a ground-floor lobby, retail space, and a rear loading dock, according to a Friday email from 42nd Ward Alderman Brendan Reilly.

The site was previously home to the Astrolab film processing company which treated footage used in all of John Hughes’ movies as well as scenes from Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight. The nondescript-looking commercial structure was demolished in 2016.

In other downtown hotel development news, 2nd Ward Alderman Brian Hopkins recently rejected a request for a zoning change to convert an existing 1956 Harry Weese-designed condo building at 227 E. Walton Street into 25 extended-stay suites.

“A hotel-use at this location would change the residential charm of the block spanning from Michigan Avenue and the Lakefront,” said Hopkins in an email to residents—apparently ignoring the fact that the Drake and Millennium Knickerbocker hotels already occupy the same of stretch of Walton.