An overflow crowd of more than one hundred people, most of them West Loop residents, met last night (February 26th) to learn about the latest plans for Phase II of The Gateway — the mixed-use retail and residential tower that remains half-built in the northern end of Greektown.
The first part of The Gateway, a retail building anchored by a Mariano’s Fresh supermarket, was completed last year at 40 South Halsted Street. The tower portion of the project has been on hold, but is now apparently moving forward.
Architect Joe Antunovich, of Chicago architecture firm Antunovich Associates, laid out the changes in the latest revision:
- The tower has changed from a hotel to a residential property.
- Instead of 224 hotel rooms, the building is now planned to have 200 apartments.
- The height has been reduced to 20 stories and 200 feet tall.
Of those people who chose to speak at the event, all were against the project. They complained primarily about the height of the tower. Even at its newly reduced stature, they believe it is out of character with the neighborhood, some claiming the proposed building is twice as tall as its neighbors.
The blocks immediately surrounding Gateway Phase II contain:
- Multiple surface parking lots
- Several two- and three-story factories and retail buildings
- A four-story residential building
- A four-story office building
- An abandoned six-story office building
- A pair of 12-story residential towers
- A 17-story hotel
- A 37-story residential tower
- A space already approved for a 46-story residential tower
There is fear that the 20-story proposal could set a precedent that opens the floodgates for other developers with a desire to erect high-rises.
Antunovich explained that a 20-story building with 200 rental units was necessary to make the construction financially viable.
Also at issue was the modification of the tower’s purpose from a hotel to a residential property.
Several residents familiar with the project said the main reason it was approved by community groups in 2011 was because of the promise of new jobs the proposed hotel would deliver. A rental property would not provide that benefit, and some expressed a feeling that this is a bait-and-switch deal.
Jack George, the attorney representing the property owner, said that efforts to attract a hotel company to open shop at the location were unsuccessful. Antunovich said most hotel chains looking for a downtown Chicago location favor River North. The West Loop simply isn’t on their radar.
27th Ward Alderman Walter Burnett, after getting an earful of protests from the audience, expressed his feeling that the project can’t be approved as a residential building given the public sentiment.
George stated that if an interested hotel company can be found, the project may move forward.