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Boystown’s OUT Hotel Unanimously Rejected by Lake View Organization

The board of directors said they will not support the proposed hotel as presented after a room of residents testified their feelings on the development.

Architect Jackie Koo presenting the updated designs Tuesday at the Belmont Harbor Neighbors meeting.
Architect Jackie Koo presenting the updated designs Tuesday at the Belmont Harbor Neighbors meeting.

The Belmont Harbor Neighbors board of directors voted unanimously Tuesday night not to support the proposed OUT Chicago Urban Resort in Boystown.

New design renderings were released for “straight-friendly” hotel proposed for 3343 N. Halsted St. in June after developer Ian Reisner and architects at Koo and Associates listened to neighbors and drastically altered the project.

Reisner cut off an additional two stories off the estimated 112-room hotel, creating an 8-story building with a setback on the top floor, giving the illusion of 7-stories. In addition, the hotel moved from hovering over Sidetrack to over Wood on the south end, as well as eliminating all balconies.

Still, the 5-member board each voted to deny sending a letter to Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) expressing their support for the project, as presented Tuesday.

BHN’s newly elected board member John Black—who was yet not eligible to vote on the hotel—says the OUT Hotel simply doesn’t fit in with Lake View.

“You’re trying to fit too large of a hotel into a space that it’s not suited for, and with all do respect to the architecture firm and your views on iconic Chicago architecture, this is not going to be an icon of Chicago architecture,” Black said. “It looks like a hotel was built over a building you could not knock down or get the rights to use.”

Others in the room had other gripes, specifically about the kind of traffic a hotel would bring to neighborhood streets, losing natural light in their homes, what it would do for rising crime rates and what it would do to property values. 

Almost every resident who spoke at the meeting voiced concerns versus support, all of which Reisner and architect Jackie Koo attempted to debunk. They believe traffic and parking will remain relatively the same because the OUT doesn’t add bars or restaurants to the corridor, and that many patrons will use public transportation.

In addition, Reisner says the addition of 24-hour security presence on the street will only decrease crime, and that a 4-star boutique resort will increase property values.

“I'm bringing a major lifestyle resort to a neighborhood might increase property values,” Reisner said. “I don’t hear other people talking about bringing a major resort to a neighborhood with high crime, that has businesses that are telling me their business is down. So I’m surprised I’m not hearing anyone speak about the vibrancy a 4-star hotel would bring to the neighborhood.”

One of the few who did speak up in favor of Reisner's plan was John Cunningham, a resident of Halsted Street who recently purchased his home. After many concerns about the hotel, he says he’s disappointed to hear the lack of support for the project.

“Every day we have to worry about getting mugged while going to the train, and we don’t have the tax dollars to help that, but we’re worried if someone is going to have light for their plant in one house,” Cunningham said. “… We have got to invest in our community. At the end of the day, you’re worried about a few property values going down. I’m worried about an entire neighborhood going to crap.”

The room applauded after his speech despite the long string of complaints.

BHN’s decision not to send a letter of recommendation to Tunney is not binding or a final decision, but a representation of the neighborhood’s feelings. Neighboring organization Triangle Neighbors has yet to vote on the proposal.

Greg J July 24, 2013 at 12:25 AM
It's the ugliest proposed building I ever saw.
Brian S. July 24, 2013 at 12:31 AM
I own property across the street and while I agree that this particular design isn't the best, I think the neighborhood will continue to go downhill if neighbors have zero tolerance for change and innovation. Neighborhoods can't stay the same forever - evolution is inevitable. The only thing we can hope to control is which direction we evolve in. We should be grateful a high class establishment wants to come in help change the trajectory the area is going in. I also think these businesses should get some credit for continuing to be so cooperative with the stubborn community by altering these plans repeatedly on their own dime to try and please neighbors when they have no legal obligation to do so. While I don't think this neighborhood group has any actual authority, I'm hopeful everyone can meet in the middle to make this a reality sooner rather than later.
TheDoctor1963 July 24, 2013 at 12:47 AM
Good for them to say no. Now is not the time. Until the alderman and policeand the businesses. Start working together. To clean up the area of crime and other violence, only then should we look into this
Chris Kucci Kuchnicki July 24, 2013 at 04:42 AM
What a disappointment. Here was an opportunity to bring money, business, and a nice boutique hotel to the neighborhood that would have greatly helped out with tourism and special events like Pride and Market Days. It would have lowered crime in the neighborhood and upped property value. But as with many big cities, people get the NIMBY syndrome. (Not in my back yard) Well folks, I'm here to tell you that you reap what you sow!
gdhpatch July 24, 2013 at 07:52 AM
It seems to me the issue is not that the neighbors have zero tolerance for change and innovation, but rather what type of development and at what cost. The neighborhood could still reap the supposed benefits of this investment if the project found the right location where it would fit more naturally with its surroundings. Unfortunately it's all too apparent that this location is designed to benefit the bars more than anyone else. The neighbors perceive this is not a win/win situation. I also think change and innovation have already happened: this is no longer "boystown", and the gay bars are merely the remnant of the past. To anchor a dying concept with a monolithic and disappointing structure is pointless. Better development on Halsted has not happened because of the bars, and the crime is because of the bars. The time has come to further the change and innovation that has already happened, and clinging to the past is not the way to do it.
alderphobia July 24, 2013 at 08:21 AM
"I also think change and innovation have already happened: this is no longer "boystown", and the gay bars are merely the remnant of the past." So true. As years go by, "boystown" is as gay as Andersonville is Swedish or Lincoln Square German. It's the local Chamber of Commerce and the bar owners who wish to remain identified with that reputation to attract business (like Andersonville and Lincoln Square). Let's get serious about redevelopment and not cling to the past or the financial interests of businesses reaping profits from a reality that is quickly vanishing. And yes, the hotel design is plain U-gly :(
Grumpy Old Man July 24, 2013 at 08:25 AM
The crime problem is already there. Whether due to the bars or other factors the question is whether the hotel would attract more and increase the problem. Certainly the attraction of "rich" tourists attract(ed) flash mobs to Michigan Avenue so the concern is real. Whether the hotel is built or not doesn't change the need for action on the part of the police in deploying adequate resources to combat the problem. I'm not sure, that we can or should just stop development because there is a crime problem. Of course the development must be considered on its own merits, and one of the strikes against this hotel is its pure aesthetic unattractiveness. it's simply put, ugly. According to the article another group needs to weigh in with its opinion and Tunney isn't bound by any of them. This project isn't Wrigley Field nor is the developer Ricketts, so he may find it easier to listen to the community. But, then again, one never knows.
Alan July 24, 2013 at 10:51 AM
I cannot believe how picky and shortsighted people get at these neighborhood meetings! This hotel would be a wonderful addition and crime would probably decrease with the hotel being there. And property values would more likely go up, not down. And it would certainly add revenue to the neighborhood which it needs, and help the existing businesses! Bravo to Cunningham for his speech and support!
Roy Rodriguez July 24, 2013 at 10:57 AM
richard mateja: Can you cite any data to support your claims?
Greg J July 24, 2013 at 10:59 AM
So the hotel guests are supposed to take public transportation? It will be a bloodbath at the Belmont L station every night, but at least the victims will be out-of-towners instead of neighborhood residents.
CWHoop July 24, 2013 at 11:01 AM
I'm just curious why the proposed hotel can't build over top of Sidetrack as well as it proposed design over top of Wood. As I see it one of the major questions continues to be it's size/height. The zoning is 50 ft. Build over top of Sidetrack and ovoer to Wood. And the archetiect who designed Sidetrack through all their improvements should be hired as a consultant. That should give the hotel the space it needs along with meeting current zoning. Everyone is saying NIMBY about the vocal neighbors. What about the bar owners who will benefit directly from the hotel with direct access from the lobby. Those who want this the most should have some skin in the game here as well. So far it seems the only ones being asked to take a potential hit (parking, valuations, etc) are the immediate neighbors. Meanwhile the business owners stand to reap all the benefits. Hardly fair to me and now is creating a very divisive situation.
JR July 24, 2013 at 11:04 AM
Maybe the neighbors are smart enough to know this hotel/developer is a joke. I think the neighbors would respond different if a) the project actually fit in the space where it is proposed. b) if it was a legitimate developer such as http://www.relatedmidwest.com/OurCompany/ proposing it. Seems like a last ditch effort by the guy that owns the property to save a little from his bankrupt real estate portfolio. Funny thing is the guy owned the building on the corner too. Why isn't that part of the deal? Anyone can hire an architect and propose something.
gdhpatch July 24, 2013 at 11:19 AM
Crime would decrease? The current increase in crime along Michigan Ave does not support the assumption. Property values would increase? Lakeview has the 3rd highest property values after the Gold Coast and Lincoln Park. Initially this was due to the renovation by the gay community....but the boys left BECAUSE property values increased, and the boys are not coming back. Boystown is over, and attempting to maintain it as such will keep values from rising further. It's time to move on to the next, post-boystown phase. Yes, the last speech of the evening was stirring and sincere. To bad it was in support of the wrong development.
Greg J July 24, 2013 at 12:14 PM
Close the Center on Halsted and build the hotel there. Once the Center is closed, the criminals won't have a hangout. The hotel won't go bankrupt because of the surrounding violence. It's a Win:Win idea.
Michael July 24, 2013 at 02:15 PM
"No" to a high-end project that would bring people who would spend money in our stores, restaurants and bars; "Yes" to The Center On Halsted that has done nothing but blight the neighborhood...and just wait until the Center's low income apartment building opens its doors for business. This neighborhood needs to reconsider its priorities
TheDoctor1963 July 24, 2013 at 02:47 PM
CRIME. WILL. NOT. DECREASE. BECAUSE. A. HOTEL. MOVES. IN. Show us the research on the figures, please. If anything we SAVED the neighborhood from something that would have been built then abandoned years later after people start badmouthing it because of bad experiences. I have to agree, it's nothing more than a hotel built over some buildings they could not buy.
Greg J July 24, 2013 at 03:20 PM
Something really stinks here. There are PLENTY of locations up and down Halsted with crumbling old buildings that could easily be bought and demolished to build a new hotel. But the developer INSISTS on this one particular spot and designs and redesigns and redesigns and comes up with the ugliest thing ever conceived just to squeeze it into that ONE spot. Somebody is getting huge incentives and kickbacks for that particular location.
TheDoctor1963 July 24, 2013 at 03:35 PM
@John -- Id say either the bar owners or the Alderman.
NeighborGuy July 24, 2013 at 04:07 PM
My two cents: I know it's a non-final design that could further change, for the better or worse, but at this point the design's jarringly out of character with the neighborhood and oversized. Also, the part of the design that has the south end of the hotel cantilevered over the circa-1900 building at the corner of Buckingham and Halsted is just dreadful. Black's quote in the article is spot-on: It looks like a big, hulking building couldn't get the parcel it needed and wanted so they intend to build over and around the corner building—to absurd effect. It gives the whole design a sort of comical look that, frankly, reminds me of the house remodel in the movie Beetlejuice (just on account of the ridiculousness of it). The architect repeatedly said that the hotel will be iconic, but I'm a bit of an architecture buff and she's dead wrong. It definitely is not iconic. Nothing about its exterior design is favorably memorable. I am confident that it is not an award-winner. (I won't comment on the design of the interior because the slides we saw clearly are vague, aspirational mock-ups that probably have little relation to what the final design would be if the hotel were to be built.) Also, the architect repeatedly said that if the Dakota up the street was okay for the neighborhood, then this hotel ought to be okay, but that reflects a total lack of awareness about the difference in the locations. Sure, the Dakota's just a few blocks north on Halsted, but, among other things, it's not a hotel without event space, its own bars and restaurants, etc. Further, it's a condo building inhabited by condo owners. In addition, it's north of Halsted, across from the old police station (under development) and the Whole Foods/Center on Halsted, and next door to Howard Brown. Behind it on Broadway, and north of it on Waveland, same story: All commercial businesses and parking lots. That area is not (and never was) in a residential area with beautiful streets, small parks, single and multi-family homes and the like. It's truly an apples and oranges thing. The architect and developer (and their traffic consultant) said traffic congestion will not be a problem, but that's laughable if you know the area and can imagine adding this large a hotel with event space would do to an already congested area.
NeighborGuy July 24, 2013 at 04:07 PM
Part 2: They also said they expect minimal impact on area parking. Really? Just … laughable. Everyone who lives in the area knows that. They said this is true as to hotel guests, people visiting those guests and hotel workers …. They see almost everyone taking public transportation. C'mon! That's ludicrous!! It will have to be a major-league cab/limousine operation, which that part of Halsted simply cannot withstand. They also don't have a great explanation for why the design for the hotel can't be lower and more horizontal (and over Sidetracks). Or why they can't get a more suitable parcel. The long-vacant Halsted/Brompton garage is one more suitable location. Other possibilities include the print shop/Sherwin-Williams store (and lot) at Halsted/Aldine. There simply is no rationale for cramming this monstrosity into this tiny parcel between Buckingham and Aldine. Also, if this hotel or something of its size gets built here, what does that portend for other nearby parcels that will be developed in coming years, parcels like the Brompton garage, Howard Brown, the little mall across from the Center on Halsted, and the line of small stores on the block north of Cornelia? In addition, we are already overrun with rats. Overrun in ways I've never experienced in 25+ years living in the city. They are big, and there are lots of them. And they're seemingly emboldened; I see them—and packs of them—running around all the time, even during the day and early evening. There were years when I saw one or two rats every 6 months or so. Now I bet I see more than 5 every day, within a block or two of the proposed building site. A hotel operation adjacent to the residential area means more rats. Construction of the hotel probably means a torrent of rats. And the alderman has heard plenty about this problem, but has done nothing about it so far as I can tell, so what will happen if the problem gets worse? Probably nothing at all. Look, I'm okay with a boutique hotel. I'm not opposed to it, or "progress," but planning of this type must be done thoughtfully, and, respectfully, the plan for this hotel is—at least at this point—a very poor plan that must be rejected. And—one final point—we should gauge how well the alderman is doing his job, and whether we want him to be our representative, based on how he handles these issues.
Michael July 24, 2013 at 04:24 PM
I'm not opposed to the hotel in theory, but with the current situation a business like that could never survive. The crime situation and delinquent loitering all night long on that street would quickly kill the hotel's chances of success. If you look at what has happened to the development of Clark Street up in Andersonville and compare it to Halsted street the difference is astounding. There's no reason why Halsted was never developed to that degree years ago. A high end hotel where the old auto body shop was (or even where Midas Muffler had been...or where The Center is) would have been much better, but I have a feeling Sidetrack threw it's weight around and wanted in on the project. It's a fine idea, but what is being ram-rodded through isn't a good plan.
JR July 24, 2013 at 07:26 PM
None of the other land owners will give this Ian guy the time of day. That's why he is set on that property that's been in the courts for 3 years now. Also the developers doesn't have funding for it. All he has invested is time and the cost of rough architectural drawings.
JR July 24, 2013 at 07:43 PM
I am not against development I just am against stuffing a building in that location. Plus we have a world class hotel opening at Addison and Clark that will be very gay friendly. We're gay we're accepted time to stop labeling things. The reason Halsted is hurting is because of the arrogant bar owners that still think its 1990 and over expanded.
M.Stivek July 24, 2013 at 09:22 PM
Actually the decay of Halsted has begun. The Center on Halsted is a failed experiment and has brought the decay of the west and south side here. Nobody on here may know the history of Halsted...It was a dump. Nothing was here but gangs and antique stores. There was no reason to come here, not even to Wrigley Field. But thanks to the gays and regentrification, things turned around, as they have in many major cities. Believe me, if Sidetrack and Roscoe left, this strip would become a ghost town. As it was stated earlier, gays no longer live soley in Boystown, just like all the gays don't live in Greenwich Village in NYC anymore. I digress. There are other pieces of property to build on on Halsted. Its actually funny...it seem Chicago is the only city where everyone has to get their 2 cents in on progress...
Michael July 24, 2013 at 10:37 PM
Halsted will never return to the vacant street it had been decades ago. If anything, with the Cubs getting their expansion green-lighted Halsted may be transformed into an expansion of the Wrigley wonderland. I could see the bars cashing in and selling out and straight bars taking over those locations. The gay bar scene will move up north, but it will never disappear.
Gunnery Sgt Hartman July 25, 2013 at 10:28 AM
GDH patch, do you have any evidence that shows that crime has actually gone up on the mag mie, as opposed to perception and media screeching?
urbaneddie July 25, 2013 at 03:08 PM
i'm all for the idea of a hotel addition to halsted but this spot doesn't make much sense nor does the design really look like anything i'd want to see (reminds me of post-war berlin junk that they've recently been demolishing). halsted & addison is in dire need of work. three of the four corners are underutilized. the gas station certainly can go. also belmont/halsted would be another good spot (remove the bank drive-thru/parking)
Roberto August 08, 2013 at 06:03 PM
All these stroller pushers need to realize, this is a CITY, let it GROW - it's a good/healthy thing for the economy, the neighborhoods and the people in the!! Do you really think someone in NYC would make these types of arguments and not be laughed out of the city? Come on people! Take your strollers and go to the burbs, or better yet, back to Indiana where you can lay in a corn field and get a sun tan (FREAKS)! This is the problem with Chicago, too many small town, lower class suburbanites that want to make it a big suburbia! GET OUT!

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