RIVER NORTH — A development planned to be built up from within the Giordano's building at 740 N. Rush St. calls for a 45-story, glass-walled Hyatt hotel that would house a mix of 620 suite and extended-stay rooms, Albert Friedman of Friedman Properties told a packed room of area residents at a community meeting Monday.
The four-story brick building now at the corner of Rush and Superior streets would remain, Friedman said, but the pizza restaurant would move to the building's second floor, freeing the street level for three new storefronts. The 444-foot glass-walled tower would extend upward from within the brick footprint.
"Candidly," Friedman said, the existing conditions at that corner are "rather dark, rather unpleasant and not necessarily the street that I would choose to walk down."
The planned development is "not just about the hotel," he said. "We’re adding new retail all around on the ground floor … if you think about it, you go from Michigan Avenue in this direction, and you see the beautiful Sax store, but there's no entrance. Its not pedestrian friendly. Other than the Peninsula Hotel there's nothing on that street."
Adding better lighting, 24-hour security and new retail shops to the corner would "bring pedestrian traffic in a westerly direction.”
While area residents at the packed community meeting led by Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) were fine with more foot traffic, they were adamant that the development team promise to keep cars to a minimum in the neighborhood.
“It has become quite clear which parts of the infrastructure aren’t working right now," Reilly conceded after several attendees voiced concerns about how valet parking is handled at the nearby Peninsula Hotel. "The Peninsula driveway situation is not satisfactory.”
To prevent similar gridlock, Friedman and partners Norr and traffic consultants at TADI pointed to a planned five-foot "lay-by lane" at the north end of Superior Street where "no more than four cars" will be staged at a time, Friedman said.
The lane would be used for taxis and retrieving valeted cars.
TADI traffic engineer Peter Lemmon estimated the hotel's 620 rooms could generate a need for 40-50 parking spaces nightly.
"About 30 percent of the people coming to hotels such as this are coming by car, whether that’s their own car or by cab," Lemmon said. "Approximately 80 percent are making those trips by taxi."
But residents balked when Jim Buczek, senior vice president of Standard Parking, which has been tapped to manage the hotel's parking situation, said "in very close proximity there’s approximately 300 spaces available where we would be able to provide excellent valet service with a quick turnaround time."
Tenants of the nearby Fordham Building said that it regularly takes them 10 to 15 minutes to get their car out of the garage on weekends, and guest parking is often unavailable.
Buczek said spaces are available during the week at 1 W. Superior St., 2 E. Superior St., the Chicagoan building, the Olympia Center, and 900 N. Michigan Ave. Additional parking spaces are available on Northwestern's campus, which Standard Parking also manages, Buczek said.
As an alternative, attendees at the meeting suggested the building should include a parking garage so that hotel guests don't poach street and garage parking from residents and their guests.
While Reilly conceded that when he first ran for election in 2007, adding parking to River North "was my stump speech," he said that in the last seven years "what we've learned is that we want to press down the number of parking spaces to the bare minimum so the sites can function, but push that parking capacity away from these densely congested areas."
“What I learned is if you build lots of parking storage, they will come," he said. "It's like the 'Field of Dreams.' You build a garage, guess what, it becomes a magnet for vehicular congestion."
Reilly stressed at the meeting that the development plan presented was "only a proposal," and said resident feedback would be key in refining the idea before it moves forward.