WICKER PARK — Last August, a plan to replace a Shell gas station with a Marriott hotel at the North and Ashland avenues intersection drew criticism from neighbors who disliked the design and were worried about traffic congestion.
The 8-story, 97-room hotel's revised design — now slated to either be a Hilton or a Hyatt and not a Marriott, the developers say — did not appear to impress most of the few dozen folks who peppered the proposed hotel's architect with questions and some insults.
"It's like an office building in Schaumburg!" one man shouted at a public meeting hosted by Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd) last week at First Lutheran Church, 1649 W. LeMoyne St.
Another man responded, "It's better than a gas station," to which a few people applauded.
Designed by architect Ron Vari, the hotel would feature a glass and concrete exterior. [View Vari's renderings and the floor plans.]
The hotel would be geared to business travelers during the week and to visiting family and friends of neighborhood residents on the weekends, Nick Tanglis, a spokesman for George Nediyakalayil, the owner of the gas station and the property, told the crowd.
If the plan, which still needs support from Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd) and the city's Planning Commission, materializes, the hotel will join a rapidly changing block where an Audi Dealership and an apartment building with new retail storefronts are both underway.
Hopkins said he has not decided yet whether he will support the proposed hotel.
The biggest fans of the hotel were business neighbors George Liakopoulos, owner of Hollywood Grill and The Hat, restaurants on the north and southwest corners of the intersection, and the families behind Aranda Tire, who own 27 other properties along Ashland Avenue.
Cecilia Lopez, whose family owns Aranda Tire, said that she hopes for more foot traffic on the street.
"South on Ashland [past North Avenue], it's a graveyard for businesses. I am all for more people coming into the area," Lopez said.
The hotel would not offer a restaurant and its 400 square-foot meeting room will mainly be for business meetings, not large banquets or parties. So those staying in the building would be going to surrounding retail spots for food and drink, Tanglis said
"We are proposing exporting surplus [money] into the local economy. We are trying to bring a top brand to your community," Tanglis said.
Steve Lipe, a resident and local real estate developer, said he was concerned with a wide open drive-through on the first floor and the peculiar design of the lobby on the 7th floor.
"I'm very pro-development but I think this site plan is a complete disaster," Lipe said.
Liakopoulos took issue with Lipe's opinion.
"Let's be a little fair here. We are not here to rip the architect or the development," Liakopoulos said.
Among the changes from the last design were that pickups and dropoffs at the hotel will take place on the property and not on Ashland or North avenues, access to the hotel will only be though inbound turns off of North Avenue from those headed west off of the Kennedy Expressway and the hotel's laundry will be done on site to ease stress on the loading area.
Vari said he made several of those changes based on feedback from last summer's meeting.
The proposed hotel is a few blocks south of Walsh Park, at the eastern end of the 2.7-mile-long Bloomingdale Trail that extends west to Bucktown, Logan Square and Humboldt Park.
The intersection is also about a half-mile east of Wicker Park's main hub, where the Northwest Tower and an adjacent building are being converted into a 69-room boutique hotel, The Robey and a 20-room hostel-like complex, The Hollander, both scheduled to open in late November.
The hotel as presented in Aug. 2015 (left) and the most recent design (right), both by architect Ronald Vari.
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