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Wilson Men's Club Owner Considering Alternative Uses for His Building

By Adeshina Emmanuel | November 29, 2012 9:42am
 Wilson Men's Club, 1124 W. Wilson Ave.
Wilson Men's Club, 1124 W. Wilson Ave.
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Cook County Assesor's Office

UPTOWN — The owner of a much-scrutinized men's hotel in Uptown is considering alternative uses for the building, which offers single-room occupancies for about $80 a week.

Manske Dieckmann Thompson Architecture is conducting a study looking into both exterior and interior alterations to the Wilson Men's Club at 1124 W. Wilson Ave., according to Patrick Thompson, an architect and partner at the Uptown-based firm.

He said owner Jay Gomberg is talking with "different potential users," who have proposed both residential and commercial uses. However, there is no clear direction on where things will end up, and no timeline has been set for completing the ongoing study, according to MDT.

The study so far has involved looking at "exterior upgrades to spruce the building up, "and potential locations for elevators, exit stairs and bathrooms," which would make it flexible for multiple uses," Thompson said. MDT is also looking at possibly eliminating some units and "opening the space up."

He believes the study was spurred by a combination of lingering community concerns and reconstruction slated for the Wilson Red Line station.

Some residents have called for the hotel to be shut down. There have been complaints about building code violations, loitering and crime outside the hotel for years — and apprehension from neighbors and passers-by about the individuals inside.

The hotel has failed more than two dozen city building inspections since the 1990s, according to city records.

The building owner did not immediately return calls for comment, but hotel manager Tina Hallars said she has complained to authorities about the loitering. She said it lessens periodically, but remains a problem. Hallars said she is hesitant to make a personal plea to people who linger outside the hotel for fear of retaliation, and added that there are misconceptions in the community about the building.

"They think that everybody who hangs out in front of the building lives here. Nobody that hangs out in front of this building lives here," Hallars said, insisting that people with fixed incomes who can't afford studios in the neighborhood frequent the hotel, not hardened criminals — although she acknowledged there are some bad apples there.

Affordable housing is hard to find in the city, and the hotel helps house people who would likely be homeless otherwise, Hallars said.