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Three Vintage Buildings Would Be Torn Down To Build River North Hotel

 New renderings of a hotel proposed near State and Erie streets in River North.
Erie Street Hotel
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RIVER NORTH — A new 15-story hotel proposed near State and Erie streets would come with a sidewalk café and white tablecloth restaurant run by the Fifty/50 Restaurant Group, which does food and drink at the Dana next door. 

To the chagrin of neighbors who spoke out against the project Tuesday.

Officials from Fifty/50 and Chicago-based developer Rebel Hospitality laid out their plans Tuesday for 12-22 W. Erie St., where they hope to complement the Dana they already run with a new 15-story, 178-room hotel. 

The project is smaller than Rebel's 26-floor, 222-room proposal Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) rejected in 2014. The new, downsized hotel would contribute about $3 million in taxes annually and nearly $1.5 million to the city's nascent Neighborhood Opportunity Fund. Its rooftop event space would be totally enclosed. 

"We’re not going to be a sports bar; we’re not going to be a nightclub," Scott Weiner, a co-owner at Fifty/50, said.

But the pitch wasn't good enough to neighbors who've felt burned by the hotel developer before. The Dana, which opened in 2008, closed its Vertigo Sky Lounge in January amid pressure from Reilly and neighbors who live across the street.

"The Dana hotel has been bad, but any hotel will be bad," Dan Walker, a neighbor organizing a petition drive against the development, said. 

The new hotel would come at the expense of three vintage buildings and a vacant lot near State and Erie streets. One of the buildings is rated "orange," or architecturally significant enough that the city takes 90 days to decide whether it will allow demolition.

A new rendering of the hotel shared Tuesday. [Eckenhoff Saunders Architects]

Designed by Eckenhoff Saunders Architects, the tower uses a "playful pattern of vertical fins" to cast "varieties" of shade on the street below, architect Walt Eckenhoff said. The hotel would have two green roofs, and its rooftop event space would be both physically and "acoustically" enclosed, Eckenhoff said. 

Developer Gene Kornota of Rebel Hospitality said his firm retooled the Dana to align it with "community needs and those of the hotel." He tried to assuage concerns about noise neighbors fear his new hotel might bring.

"Unlike a standalone lounge or standalone nightclub, we have guests sleeping in the building," he said.

Fifty/50 is known for its namesake sports bar in Wicker Park, as well as The Berkshire Room in the Acme Hotel in River North and Steadfast at the Kimpton Gray Hotel in the Loop. Fifty/50 also recently opened Bunny Slope, a private hot tub bar in the basement of the Acme Hotel, and plans a new rooftop bar called Apogee at the Dana. 

The developers hosted the meeting because they plan on participating in the city's neighborhood opportunity fund, which grants density bonuses for Downtown projects in exchange for contributions to a fund benefiting less economically vibrant neighborhoods. Such an arrangement requires projects to be vetted and approved by the City Council, even if the project doesn't require a zoning change. 

Kornota said the Dana lost just 2 percent of business last year despite the introduction of 4,000 new hotel rooms Downtown. 

"The inventory is being absorbed and that’s great for hotel owners and developers," he said. "We understand it's a very volatile market. It goes up and down."

Development "is always a risky proposition," he said. 

RELATED: New 15-Story Hotel Could Be Coming To River North