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18-Story Luxury Hotel Would 'Destroy' Old Town's Character, Neighbors Say

By Mina Bloom | December 3, 2015 12:41pm
 A rendering of the hotel, viewed from Wells Street.
A rendering of the hotel, viewed from Wells Street.
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Chicago Development Partners

OLD TOWN — Plans to build an 18-story boutique hotel on Wells Street are facing fierce opposition from neighbors, who believe the hotel would "destroy" the charm of quaint Old Town.

Condor Partners and Chicago Development Partners are seeking a zoning change to build a luxury hotel they dubbed Hotel Sinclair at 1528 N. Wells St., a site that is currently occupied by O'Brien's Restaurant & Bar. The current zoning designation only allows for a building that is 80-feet tall.

If the developers get zoning approval, the hotel would be spread out over 140,000 square feet. It would offer between 188 and 200 rooms, with an average of 300 square feet of space each, for $250-$300 per night. An underground parking garage would have room for 58 cars, according to Howard Weiner, principal of Chicago Development Partners. 

A view of the hotel from Wieland Street. [All photos DNAinfo/Mina Bloom]

A view of the hotel from the pedestrian perspective.

The "four-star" hotel would also have a rooftop lounge, a patisserie, meeting spaces and a new white tablecloth restaurant. O'Briens, which has called Old Town home for more than 30 years, would re-open in the hotel.

Weiner, along with Rebecca Dickson and Solomon Barket from Condor Partners, presented their plans to more than 200 neighbors and Ald. Walter Burnett Jr. (27th) at a community meeting at the Catherine Cook School gym, 226 W. Schiller St., Wednesday evening. 

No official poll was taken, but based on public comment, more neighbors vocally opposed the project than supported it. And it was mostly business owners who expressed support.

"Adding this monstrosity will ruin the neighborhood," said David Bardach, who has lived on Wells Street since 1991. "I think the balance between residents and merchants has swung all the way to the merchants' side."

Bardach was one of more than a dozen neighbors who thought the developers' use of the word "boutique" was misleading, considering the hotel's size. 

"I don't know what definition of boutique they're using. It's a big hotel. Build it on North Avenue, Move it to LaSalle Street. [This is] not what goes on Wells Street," he said.

But there were a small handful of folks like Dino Lubbat, who owns Dinotto Pizzeria, 1551 N. Wells St., who expressed support. 

"As a business owner, I appreciate the extra business it'll bring to the whole neighborhood. They'll be spending money. As a resident, I like it because it's not another condo building that's going to affect my resale value," he said.

Both developers have experience building in the Old Town and Lincoln Park area. Condor Partners headed up the acquisition of Hotel Lincoln, 1816 N. Clark St. Chicago Development Partners built the condo building at 1414 N. Wells St., and has plans to build a project at 101 W. North Ave., that some neighbors oppose.

"This is the only neighborhood I can envision doing this type of hotel and have it to be successful," Barket said. "We want to blend in so neighbors feel like it's as much their home as the guests."

Weiner said he and his partners explored two other designs before deciding on the final one. The first design shows a much wider hotel that is 80-feet tall, which is what zoning currently allows. Weiner said it looked like an Embassy Suites, and they "didn't want to do that." The second shows a 21-story hotel, which Weiner said was "a little too monolithic."

The first design: An 80-feet tall hotel, which is what zoning currently allows.

The second design: A 21-story story hotel, viewed from Wells Street.

They ended up landing on the third design: An 18-story hotel with multiple setbacks from the street to create what Weiner calls a "pleasant streetscape."

While neighbors at the meeting were mostly concerned that the height and look of the hotel didn't fit the neighborhood, a few raised traffic concerns. The developers said they were looking at possibly adding a left-turn signal to Wells Street and North Avenue and a traffic signal to Wells Street and Schiller Street to alleviate congestion. 

They also said they'd make sure all deliverers were made inside the building, and that Wieland Avenue wouldn't see a reduction in parking or any curb cuts. 

Weiner said a couple of times throughout the meeting that "something will get built" no matter what, but they welcome feedback and suggestions. Construction is expected to take less than a year.

Burnett did not offer his opinion, but reminded the audience that neighbors opposed Weiner's condo building project at 1414 N. Wells St. at the time it was built, saying "sometimes you make sacrifices." 

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