HYDE PARK — A Hyatt Place hotel opened to a full house on Wednesday.
“I really love it,” said Jim Bloom, a neighbor who walked over to check out the hotel at 5225 S. Harper Ave. “Obviously the area needed it. They’re booked solid.”
Ivory Coast dancers from UniverSoul Circus milled around the lobby of the 131-room hotel with Hyde Parkers curious about the new hotel.
Kathy Huff of the Hyde Park Historical Society came by with her husband, Roger, and was impressed with the bright and airy interior.
“You just can’t do heaviness in Chicago, it’s too much with our winters,” Huff told John Schultzel, vice president of Olympia, the company managing the hotel.
Huff pressed Schultzel on making sure rooms were affordable for families in Hyde Park to visit relatives who were patients at the University of Chicago Medicine.
“The university’s medical center is a key reason we’re here,” Schultzel said, adding that the hotel offers a 15 percent discount for those staying at the Hyatt while visiting a patient.
Schultzel said the staff was almost entirely hired from the community, making employees well equipped to help out those unfamiliar with Hyde Park.
“The people who work in this hotel understand and really care about what this means for Hyde Park,” he said, adding that many employees were hired at a 4th Ward job fair, where more than 200 applied for the 36 full-time positions.
Schultzel said 90 percent of the employees live on the South Side, with 60 percent those living in Hyde Park or an adjoining neighborhood. He said the hotel has met its promise to pay better than a living wage.
“A Hyatt Place six blocks away is certainly attractive,” said Anthony Beach, the new general manager who left a job at a hotel in Schaumburg to work closer to his home in Douglas.
The hotel is not considered entirely complete yet.
Schultzel said he still is looking for local artists and Hyde Park-centered art to decorate the rooms.