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Gay Hotel Proposal Aims to Revive Boystown as LGBT Destination

By Serena Dai | April 12, 2013 9:40am | Updated on April 12, 2013 10:36am

LAKEVIEW — Supporters of a proposed gay hotel in Boystown say the LGBT-focused spot will help revive the neighborhood's status as a gay destination — but not all Lakeview residents are on board.

Parkview Developers' Ian Reisner presented the idea for a 10-story luxury, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender-focused but straight-friendly hotel called The Out Hotel Chicago on Thursday to a room of about 50 business owners and residents.

The hotel would be at 3343 N. Halsted St., replacing the Mark's Chop Suey building, and is Reisner's second location for The Out. The Out Hotel in New York opened about a year ago.

The project costs $30 million and would bring more than 100 jobs, Reisner said. Building a hotel will bring business to the area outside the peak bar times and help revive the neighborhood, Reisner said. He hopes to finish by 2015.

"Boystown needs to be cemented and recemented as the epicenter of gay Chicago," he said.

But other neighbors said the development should not be about "LGBT vs. straight people."

"We are a very diverse community," one neighbor said. "You want to anchor the bars. You want life the way it was in the past. It's not going to be like that."

Some residents expressed concern that the height and bulk of the building would overshadow the neighborhood, traffic would become a problem or that the hotel might harm the daytime quiet, family atmosphere of the neighborhood. 

The height of the building, for example, may kill sunlight access for neighboring buildings, said Janice Ziebka, who lives right behind the building of the proposed hotel.

"We have nice bright windows," said "They’re going to be gone with a building that size right behind us. Our property values are going to sink."

Stu Zirin, an owner of D.S. Tequila and Minibar, responded that a Boystown resurgence can happen, adding that neighbors should be "proud of our past."

With bars like Circuit and Cocktail closing, the neighborhood needs change, and Reisner's willingness to spend $30 million needs to be welcomed with open arms, supporters of the hotel said.

"We're dying," Zirin said. "It’s not like it used to be. Trust me. We need to bolster back our heritage — what we built Lakeview on in the gay community."

Most of the Chicago development will be nine floors and 84 feet, with the setback 10th floor at 95 feet. Reisner said the building needed to be that tall in order to have enough conference space, hotel rooms and other additions to be economically feasible.

The hotel would include a glass atrium for weddings and community activities like Easter egg hunts and fashion shows, a restaurant by celebrity chef Art Smith and a 1,500-square-foot gym that would cost less than $399 a year to join. Minibar would be folded into the hotel as XL Minibar, and Sidetrack would be connected to the hotel lobby.

Lakeview's master plan from 2005 determined that the neighborhood needs a hotel. Visitors end up spending more cash Downtown because of the lack of hotel space in the neighborhood. 

Bennett Lawson, 44th Ward Ald. Tom Tunney's chief of staff, attended the meeting and said there was a need for at least three to four boutique hotels like The Out Chicago. The Ricketts' family also is planning to build a boutique hotel near Wrigley Field. 

The alderman supports bringing in a hotel, but Thursday's meeting was just the first step in deciding whether to grant Reisner the zoning relief he needs to build, Lawson said. The planned development can still be revised.

"We do want more hotel rooms," he said. "That said, it's got to fit on the street and serve the community."