LINCOLN PARK — An eight-story hotel is being proposed to replace the aging Inn at Lincoln Park — the third major development proposed along the eastern edge of Diversey Parkway this year.
"Diversey in its history, in the '30s and '40s, was the Oak Street of Chicago before there was an Oak Street," Victor Patel, the owner of the Inn at Lincoln Park, said at a community meeting Tuesday night.
Patel is seeking to knock down the five-story hotel at 601 W. Diversey, and build a modern hotel that would likely become a Hampton Inn.
"This street has significant history," Patel said. "There has been a substantial investment on the west side of Clark Street, but not on this side. We want to change that."
Patel bought the hotel in 1993 and is now seeking to increase the total number of rooms from 71 to 141 while also increasing the number of parking spaces to 55.
The current hotel was built in 1918 and lacks most modern amenities such as a fitness center, pool and meeting rooms.
To build the proposed hotel, Patel would need to rezone the property to allow for greater density and knock down a three-flat directly to the south of the current hotel, which he already owns.
"It’s just good timing," he said. "It’s a good environment to do a project like this. The economics are good. We need a new amenity here on the site.”
The proposal also includes three retail storefronts along the ground floor, two 1,500-square-foot spaces along Diversey as well as a larger space that would house a "destination" restaurant.
Patel envisioned a coffee shop or deli opening in one of the smaller storefronts.
There also are plans for a pool on the roof of the 106-foot-tall building.
During the first public meeting to discuss the plans, held at the Elks Memorial Foundation building, neighbors of the site raised a number of issues including congestion due to increased traffic, a lack of parking in the neighborhood and the asthetics of the hotel.
The two other projects that are in the works on the same block of Diversey include plans for a 17-story condo building that would be built on the site of Market Place Foodstore, 523 W. Diversey, and 50-unit apartment building across the street at 506-514 W. Diversey.
"Diversey is a heavily traveled area. We've got a lot of development going on," said Jan Sumrall, a board member of the South East Lake View Neighbors group. "We are going to be under construction here for many, many years and I hope this will be coordinated."
Ald. Michele Smith (43rd) said she has been working with Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) in coordinating the projects to ensure traffic studies for the developments include information and projections on all the developments.
"As a neighborhood, we have no choice other than to look at the development as all one big project," said David Keats, president of the Hampton Courts Condo Association.
Patel said he was willing to work with the neighborhood and add additional parking if that is what the community needs.
The modern look of the proposed hotel was brought into question by the president of Preservation Chicago, Ward Miller.
Miller, who attended a meeting to discuss the plans Tuesday night, asked why none of the original brickwork or structure was being incorporated into the design.
"We don't need a Hampton Inn that looks like it belongs in Schaumburg on the corner of Diversey and Lehmann," Miller said.
Miller estimated that there were a dozen historic buildings in the city that are currently undergoing transformations into hotels.
"It seems like this is a missed opportunity," he said.
Patel shot back, saying he thought long about the project and preserving the building simply would not work.
"I don't know what Hampton Inn looks like this in Schaumburg," he said to Miller. "You will have to show me it."
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