CHATHAM — A South Shore businessman wants to build the first new hotel in Chatham in years — a $10 million, 90-room facility — but his plan got mixed reactions from residents at a community meeting earlier this week.
Herbert Hedgeman said he wants to build the five-story "Park Manor Inn" in the 7600 block of South State Street on a vacant lot he has owned for 40 years. The hotel would include a 100-seat restaurant, a 2,900-square-foot community meeting room and 43 parking spaces.
"I have been a part of this community for 70 years and all I am trying to do is jump start economic development along State Street and bring people into the hospitality industry," Hedgeman told a feisty crowd of 200 people at St. Dorothy's Church.
Wendell Hutson says that many people were concerned the hotel could draw the wrong crowd to the neighborhood:
The 83-year-old businessman , whose office has been in the 8000 block of South Cottage Grove Avenue for the last 50 years, wants to complete the project in the next five years.
He is not seeking any tax-increment financing from the city or other community incentives, said Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th), whose ward includes the development site.
"I am not for or against this development plan. I want to hear what [Chatham residents] think about this idea, which is why I organized this meeting," Sawyer told residents. "I respect and appreciate Mr. Hedgeman for wanting to spend $10 million of his own money to build something in my ward."
East Lake Management & Development Corp. in Bronzeville is a developer for the project, according to Hedgeman, and Piekarz Associates P.C. is the project's architect firm.
A zoning change for would be required for the project, Sawyer said.
The meeting attracted so many people it had to be moved from its original location at Urban Partnership Bank at 7801 S. State St.
But one resident after another stood up to object to the proposal, saying it would impact residential parking and would not be able to attract upscale or middle-class travelers as Hedgeman predicted.
"That means it would end up being a slum hotel where drug dealers and prostitutes hang out to do their business," said Michelle Chisholm, 78. "Chatham does not need that problem. We have our hands full dealing with violence."
Residents complained about another one of Hedgeman's properties, Barbara Ann's Motel, 7621 S. Cottage Grove Ave., which rents rooms on a short-term basis, which residents said makes it easier to use rooms for illegal activities.
Hedgeman also owns Sportsman’s Inn Motel, 4501 S. Cicero Ave., which also rents on a short-term basis.
But Hedgeman said he sold his interest in Barbara Ann's Motel in 2010 and is currently trying to sell Sportsman's, which he has owned for 40 years.
He promised that the Park Manor Inn would not offer short-term room rentals.
Eli Washington, chairman of the Chesterfield Community Council, said while he is not against the hotel proposal, he is against it being located on State Street.
"It's a wonderful idea but a bad place to put it. I think it would work better if it was along the Bishop Ford Expressway by that Walmart in Pullman," Washington said. "A better project for State Street would be a restaurant, grocery store or a pet store. You know people love their animals."
But Worlee Glover, who runs the Concerned Citizens for Chatham blog, said he supports the proposal.
"I have no issue with it. Something has to go up on State Street," Glover said. "It might as well be a hotel."
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