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Viceroy Hotel Reopens as Harvest Commons, Part of Neighborhood Revamp Plan

NEAR WEST SIDE — Mayor Rahm Emanuel's promise to revitalize seven Chicago neighborhoods with $2.9 billion in strategic investments hit a concrete landmark Friday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the new Harvest Commons, an affordable-housing apartment complex in what used to be the Viceroy Hotel.

The 89-unit building, at 1519 W. Warren Blvd., was  redeveloped by Heartland Housing in conjunction with the adjacent First Baptist Congregational Church and is one ingredient in the mayor's "Neighborhoods Now" initiative.

Emanuel told DNAinfo.com Chicago that while the Harvest Commons project isn't the flashiest on the list of Near West Side investments that include new streets, updates to the Damen "L" stop and renovations at Union Park, it's an important component in making sure current residents aren't left behind as the neighborhood develops.

"I think what's great about this objective for the Chicago neighborhoods is that everybody is gonna advance together," Emanuel said. "Sometimes, in advancing the entertainment district, and education options, the least fortunate were left behind, and priced out. That's not what we're doing here."

Critics of the hotel renovation plan when it was first introduced questioned whether the $22.3 million investment was worthwhile, since it could impact fewer than 100 Chicagoans.

The finished development unveiled Friday also includes on-site job training, case management, mental health and substance abuse counseling, an Internet cafe on the first floor, and an urban farm on adjacent land for resident use.

Emanuel noted that the impact of the investment in Harvest Commons will be amplified by additional improvement projects launching simultaneously on the Near West Side.

Ald. Walter Burnett Jr. (27th) said he was grateful for the new development, but wasted little time pressuring the mayor for future projects.

"There's a lot of great things happening over here, a lot of momentum. We're trying to get the mayor to let us get that entertainment center that the United Center wanted to build over here, get rid of some of these parking lots," he joked. "I know that's a complicated thing."

"But you just thought you'd throw it out there," Emanuel interrupted, smiling.

The mayor also had news Friday for nearby Fulton Market, announcing a $100,000 planning study to set gears in motion for a year-round public market in the area.