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Grupo Habita Tapped to Run Boutique Hotel in Wicker Park's Northwest Tower

By Alisa Hauser | March 21, 2014 8:06pm
 Plans are underway to convert the Northwest Tower at 1600 N. Milwaukee Ave. into a boutique hotel.
Plans are underway to convert the Northwest Tower at 1600 N. Milwaukee Ave. into a boutique hotel.
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DNAinfo/Alisa Hauser

WICKER PARK —  Grupo Habita, the Mexico-based operators of a boutique hotel in New York's arts district, will be expanding to Chicago and running its largest enterprise yet: a 120-room hotel complex in the heart of Wicker Park.

"We are very excited and think they are a perfect fit for the building and the location," said Evan Meister, a real estate analyst with Convexity Properties, the developers who are bringing a boutique hotel to the Northwest Tower at 1600 N. Milwaukee Ave.

A 12-story art deco skyscraper that towers over the Milwaukee, Damen and North Avenue intersection, the Northwest Tower was built in 1928 and is considered to be one of Wicker Park's most iconic buildings.

 The 12-story Northwest Tower also known to some as the Coyote Building at 1608 N. Milwaukee Ave. in Wicker Park was built in 1929 and remains the neighborhood's tallest and most iconic building.   
Northwest Tower
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Meister said on Friday that the exterior restoration of the building is scheduled to begin at the end of April and if all goes as planned, the hotel, which does not yet have a name, will be ready for occupancy in the summer of 2015.

Meister called Grupo Habita "a true boutique operator" and said it was chosen by Convexity Properties due to its experience with adaptive reuse of landmark buildings and the fact Grupo Habita is "truly about engaging the community."

Though Convexity Properties' plan to bring a hotel to the Milwaukee, Damen and North avenues intersection has been widely reported, the name of the hotel's operator had not been revealed until Thursday, when it was announced during a city Planning Commission meeting, Our Urban Times reported.

Grupo Habita operates 14 hotels in Mexico as well as the Hotel Americano in New York City's Chelsea neighborhood, which opened in 2011 and is the firm's largest hotel, with 56 rooms.

The Grupo Habita brand has been described as "unerringly edgy."

Some of Grupo Habita's hotels include La Purificadora, located inside of a late 19th century water purification plant in Puebla, Mexico, and Condesa df, a 40-room hotel inside of a French Neoclassical 1920s-era building in Mexico City.

On Thursday, members of the city's Plan Commission gave unanimous approval to Convexity Properties' plans for the restoration and reuse of the existing tower as well as a neighboring warehouse that will offer "shared rooms."

The Plan Commission also approved the addition of a rooftop to the tower and the construction of a two-story building on a lot adjacent to the warehouse.

In April, the plans will come before the full City Council for a vote.

When the project is complete, the art deco Northwest tower at 1600 N. Milwaukee Ave. will contain 75 rooms, about 300 square-feet each and renting for $159 per night.

The hotel's other rooms, called "shared rooms," will be inside a 27,000 square-foot Hollander Fireproof Warehouse building at 1618 N. Milwaukee Ave.

Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd), whose ward encompasses the complex, called the project, "a win-win for everybody."

"It sailed through community approvals, it sailed through the planning commission, everyone embraced it," Fioretti said, calling the hotel, which will "offer fantastic panoramic views of the city" a "great opportunity for the neighborhood."

"We have an active entertainment and arts district but no hotels and this building has been deteriorating for years, it gives it a blighted appearance. I am glad the terra cotta features will be preserved," Fioretti said.

Scott Novack, a Wicker Park resident who has been eager to find out who the operator of the hotel would be, lives one block north of the Northwest Tower and said he will be "sharing an alley" with the hotel.

"Overall, I think it will be nice to have an International feel with what should line up to be an outside-of-the-box concept," Novack said.

Novack added, "It's such a unique opportunity, with an adaptive re-use of a hotel outside of the typical River North or downtown area.  I think [Grupo Habita] may be ripe for the challenge."