WICKER PARK — Scaffolding that has protected pedestrians walking under Wicker Park's Northwest Tower for the past five years has been removed, offering optimists a sign that the planned 89-room boutique hotel from Mexico-based chain Grupo Habita will meet its newest deadline of opening by year's end.
The scaffolding was taken away on Jan. 28, according to a spokesman from developer Convexity Properties, which has been managing the massive rehab. The project won city tax relief incentives in 2014.
“We are making great progress. We will definitely be done before the end of the year," the spokesman said.
The scaffolding protected pedestrians from work overhead and to support equipment and workers restoring the exterior, according to the spokesman.
"We are complete with the overhead work and the scaffolding is no longer needed," the spokesman said.
The announced completion target date has been moved back a few times during the effort to transform the 88-year-old building into a modern hotel. In October of 2014, company officials estimated it would be ready by spring of 2016.
The still-unnamed hotel will offer 89 rooms with the bulk of the rooms — 69, or about seven per floor — in the iconic tower at 1600 N. Milwaukee Ave at the northwest corner of the Milwaukee, North and Damen avenues intersection. Another 20 rooms will be in the five-story Hollander Fireproof Warehouse at 1618 N. Milwaukee Ave, adjacent to the tower.
Susan Dinko, the building's former property manager, said the tower's scaffolding was installed as early as 2010.
The removal of the scaffolding has added more light to a temporary walkway along the southern side of the building that faces North Avenue.
Since 2014, the walls of the walkway have served as an unofficial street art gallery, offering a blank canvas to taggers, wheatpaste creators, poets, feminists, fashion bloggers and more artists.
A venture backed by trader Don Wilson and AJ Capital bought the tower for $12.5 million in 2012.
Convexity Properties, the real estate and management arm of Wilson's firm DRW Holdings, is leading the renovation project that is also overseen by the city Commission on Chicago Landmarks.
Once completed, the hotel's guest amenities will include a swimming pool on the roof of the warehouse and, on the top of the tower, an enclosed bar with an outdoor patio that will be open to the public.
A restaurant and lounge are on tap for the tower's first two floors and would be open to the public. Project officials also said that an enclosed area adjacent to the pool on the top of the warehouse would also have a restaurant and a bar open to guests and non-guests.
The lower lounge in the tower would offer a place to drink coffee and use Wi-Fi with "nice big windows just above the intersection," the developer told a neighborhood group in 2013.
Over the summer, the city issued a construction permit to connect the tower and Hollander warehouse. The roofs of all three structures will feature a combined 6,221-square-foot green roof area.
The plans also call for a new one-story retail space at the site's northern end, which will house the relocated Sprint store, which moved out of the tower's base last year. The retail area will host three retail tenants including Sprint.
"The retail building is coming along very well. I expect to turn over the Sprint space in late March," the Convexity spokesman said.
On Monday, an executive with Grupo Habita declined to share the latest renderings of the hotel, preferring to wait closer to an opening date.
Grupo Habita operates 14 hotels in Mexico as well as the Hotel Americano in New York City's Chelsea neighborhood. The New York hotel opened in 2011 and is the firm's largest hotel, with 56 rooms.
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