HYDE PARK — A meeting on University of Chicago’s campus Thursday night to discuss plans for Hyde Park’s new boutique hotel turned tense as frustrated residents expressed concerns over potential parking and congestion issues that could arise when construction wraps on the $20 million, 90-room building.
“I’ve lived here all my life, and parking has always been an issue,” said one resident attending the meeting hosted by 5th Ward Ald. Leslie Hairston at Ida Noyes Hall. “Where are all these people going to park?”
The proposed space is currently a parking lot owned by the university.
Representatives from Smart Hotels, GREC Architects and Olympia Companies, were on hand to provide updates and answer questions about the LEED Silver, four-diamond luxury hotel scheduled to break ground at 1401 E. 53rd St. in spring 2016.
Greg Randall, one of the architects on the project, said that the designs are still being finalized, but space for a restaurant and retailers will be on the ground floor. The seven-story building also will have meeting rooms and a fitness center. Olympia Companies will be in charge of operations. No restaurants have signed on yet.
Olympia Companies representative Sarah Masterson, laid out its strategy to alleviate parking headaches, which included valet parking, on-site parking and the use of the Harper Court garage to deal with overflow. There also would be a dedicated shuttle for hotel guests.
“There are 17 on-site spots dedicated to hotel and restaurant parking,” said Masterson. “Restaurant patrons will be encouraged to use valet parking. We’ve also limited meeting and event space to prevent an influx of vehicular traffic.”
Free parking will be provided for hotel staff.
Masterson said that providing dedicated shuttle service was necessary, as urban hotels are seeing a decrease in guests who arrive in cars.
“This isn’t an easy city to drive in, and it’s far more convenient to not have to deal with a vehicle,” she said.
Some residents remained unimpressed. One woman was worried about the impact the project would have on plans for her wedding anniversary celebration.
“If relatives come in from out of town, there will be no place to park, and they won’t be able to afford your hotel. They’ll have great difficulty affording the Hyatt,” she said.
The woman later added, “What will ordinary citizens — not wealthy people — get to balance the loss of parking accessibility?”
Another resident complained about the lack of communication between developers and residents, and pushed for a Chicago Department of Transportation study to provide better ideas.
Hairston said she supports the project but understood and shared some of the residents' concerns about parking and safety. She pledged to work with them to find a solution satisfying to all.
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