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Downsized Hotel for Gays Still Too Big, Lakeview Neighborhood Group Says

By Serena Dai | July 24, 2013 9:47am
  Developers of The Out Hotel Chicago  eliminated two floors of the project after complaints about its height, but residents still don't like the plan.
Proposed LGBT Hotel Slashed by Two Floors
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LAKEVIEW — A proposed LGBT-focused boutique hotel faced a significant setback Tuesday as the board of a neighborhood group unanimously rejected the project.

About 50 people filled the meeting room of the Town Hall Police District headquarters to hear about Parkview Developers' latest rendering of The Out Hotel Chicago at 3343 N. Halsted St, a $30 million project that downsized from 10 floors to eight floors after neighbors complained about building bulk and loss of light.

Renderings show the luxury gay-focused, straight-friendly hotel standing at 79 feet, but the new rendering does not solve problems of traffic and light impact on the immediate neighbors to the east, residents said, adding that it's still too tall to fit the character of the street.

Residents asked developer Ian Reisner and architect Jackie Koo about ways to keep the hotel at the current zoning height of 55 feet. 

"I don’t think we’re willing to accept increased economic activity at the cost of destroying the look of the neighborhood for blocks around," one resident said.

Reisner and Koo said the hotel needs a certain height to maintain an economically viable room count. 

Even though most members of the Belmont Harbor Neighbors who spoke opposed the project, the room erupted into applause after one man delivered a speech supporting the hotel near the end of the two-hour meeting.

Halsted Street's empty storefronts point to a need for a revival, and "it saddens me" to see people opposing the investment of free money, he said. A hotel could potentially add more businesses to the street so that it's not just a string of bars, he said.

"Neighborhood associations bitch and moan," the man said. "Not saying they’re not important issues, but for the grand scheme, they’re minor issues. At the end of the day, things are changing. We cannot keep our roots in the past and not look to the future. "

In addition to the board's rejection of the project, residents in attendance filled out a survey to voice their support or dissent. Results will be posted online and sent to Ald. Tom Tunney (44th).

The Northalsted Business Alliance also sent a letter to Tunney Tuesday in support of the project, pending that the hotel meets parking requirements and does not displace current alliance members. 

The 44th Ward Master Plan has cited a need for at least three or four boutique hotels in the neighborhood, and the alderman supports bringing one in — but only if it fits the character of the neighborhood and has residents' support.

Triangle Neighbors will be the next group to vote on the project.

Reisner, who opened The Out Hotel in New York City more than a year ago, said he still expects to start construction next winter for a 2015 completion. 

"At the end of the day," he said, "it's what the alderman thinks is best for the neighborhood, what's right for Chicago and Lakeview."