Alderman Reilly: Cedar Hotel Tower is an Ex-Parrot

The Cedar Hotel, or Hotel Cedar, depending on how you read the sign

The Cedar Hotel, or Hotel Cedar, depending on how you read the sign

If you’ve ever wondered if there was even a sliver of a chance that the 20-story Cedar Hotel expansion approved by former 42nd Ward Alderman Burt Natarus might become a reality, the current 42nd Ward Alderman wants you to know in no uncertain terms: Not on his watch.

Alderman Brendan Reilly sent out an e-mail to his constituents today which, in part, addresses repeated moaning that the mammoth erection on Viagra Triangle might rise once again.

Back in 2010, Reilly yanked Planned Development 1061 off the books, which would have seen a 250-foot-tall hotel tower added to the Cedar Hotel at 1112 North State Street, offering up to 220 hotel rooms.   At the time, Reilly drove a nail into that project’s coffin by reverting the zoning back to its previous DX-7 status.  Now he wants to throw extra dirt on the grave, soak the ground with gasoline, set the graveyard on fire, and stomp out the flames with size 10½ loafers by further reducing the zoning at that location to a mere DX-5.  That would limit any tower on the property to just 150 feet tall or less.

Writing in the third person, Mr. Reilly explains his actions:

When the new owners of the Cedar Hotel recently asserted they had no legal obligations to preserve the historic terra cotta facade and planned to revive the hotel tower proposal (now within the current DX-7 zoning classification), Alderman Reilly believed he had no choice other than introduce an ordinance to downzone the property to a DX-5, forcing a conversation to revisit the planned development process and its neighborhood protections…

The downzone ordinance was designed to protect neighborhood residents from a potentially irresponsible high-rise development which could include a hotel development with an intense use at a location with unique and significant infrastructure and traffic limitations. The Alderman believes that neighbors would be negatively impacted if a large boutique hotel is built under existing development rights, without first negotiating a planned development to govern the proposed use, density, programming and site circulation.

The Cedar Hotel tower has been a thorn in Mr. Reilly’s side ever since he joined city council.  Former alderman Natarus approved the increased zoning after he lost the election, and just days before he left City Hall, making it a metaphorical 20-story-tall middle finger directed at the heart of a 42nd ward that failed to keep him in office.

You can read Alderman Reilly’s entire note to his constituents on the matter following the gallery of diagrams of the Cedar Hotel tower that soon will not have been and never will be.  Also, if you’re confused by the phrase “ex-parrot,” click here.

At the December 11th City Council meeting, Alderman Reilly introduced a zoning reclassification of the former Cedar Hotel located at 1112 North State Street to reduce the density from its current DX-7 downtown mixed-use district to a DX-5 downtown mixed-use district.

For the past 7 years, Alderman Reilly has been working to ensure a responsible redevelopment of the Cedar Hotel that not only protects the historic façade but also incorporates the orange-rated historic structure into any future redevelopment of the site.

Prior to its DX-7 classification, the former Cedar Hotel property was zoned Planned Development (PD) No. 1061. In conjunction with the impending expiration of that planned development, Alderman Reilly sunset the PD in July 2010, restoring the site to its original lower-density classification of “DX-7”.

The Alderman’s 2010 action closed the door on a controversial plan (approved by the previous alderman) that would have permitted a 250′ tower to be built atop the existing Cedar Hotel. The proposed site would have supported a 20-story hotel with 220 hotel keys, no parking and a busy loading zone in the State Street intersection.

Alderman Reilly sunset the hotel tower proposal in 2010 because the addition of 220 hotel keys at this location was too intense a use for the site’s existing infrastructure. Already a challenging intersection congested to the point of failure, neighborhood residents, too overwhelmingly opposed the hotel proposal citing the same concerns related to hotel loading, traffic and the pre-existing conflicts between cars and pedestrians.

When the new owners of the Cedar Hotel recently asserted they had no legal obligations to preserve the historic terra cotta facade and planned to revive the hotel tower proposal (now within the current DX-7 zoning classification), Alderman Reilly believed he had no choice other than introduce an ordinance to downzone the property to a DX-5, forcing a conversation to revisit the planned development process and its neighborhood protections.

Alderman Reilly’s proposed zoning change will reduce the maximum building height/density threshold from 180 feet (in a DX-7) to 150 feet (in a DX-5) for non-residential buildings. Any taller proposal will be forced into a planned development. For residential proposals, the maximum building height/density threshold is reduced down to 130 feet (in a DX-5) from the existing 155 feet (in a DX-7). Again, any building proposal taller than those maximums will be routed through the planned development process.

The downzone ordinance was designed to protect neighborhood residents from a potentially irresponsible high-rise development which could include a hotel development with an intense use at a location with unique and significant infrastructure and traffic limitations. The Alderman believes that neighbors would be negatively impacted if a large boutique hotel is built under existing development rights, without first negotiating a planned development to govern the proposed use, density, programming and site circulation.

Editor

Author: Editor

Editor founded the Chicago Architecture Blog in 2003, after a long career in journalism. He can be reached at chicagoarchitectureinfo@gmail.com.

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4 Comments

  1. From what I understand, there’s no height limit in a D-zoning district.

    Going from DX-7 to DX-5 I believe lowers the height threshold that would trigger a PD.

    Personally, I think that the developers should sue the city. The continued to catering of the NIMBY’s in the central area is hazardous to the growth of Chicago.

    Post a Reply
    • Editor

      You are correct that there is no legal height restriction in a DX zone, but there are practical restrictions when you’re dealing with physics and fire codes and such things that make it possible to estimate the maximum logical height.

      While we all hate NIMBYs, I don’t see that Alderman Reilly has a history of catering to them. In my estimation, he more often favors the developer than the NIMBYs. The very few times he has openly gone against a development in his ward have been when the developer did something very stupid, like leapfrogging his office, or announcing big plans without consulting the city. Wolf Point and River Point are recent examples.

      Also, catering to the people he represents isn’t a bad thing. It’s called Democracy. Imagine if the people of the Gold Coast got to decide what gets built down on 66th Street where you live.

      As for suing over this, I actually agree with you there. I’m no lawyer, but you’d think there would be some kind of restraint of trade or some other tenet being violated. The question is whether the cost of a lawsuit would be less than the amount of revenue that would be gained from the extra height.

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  2. What struck me as weird was the proposed design, which includes the Cedar Hotel and restoring the facade, and the text from Reilly: “the new owners of the Cedar Hotel recently asserted they had no legal obligations to preserve the historic terra cotta facade and planned to revive the hotel tower proposal”. If the alderman is really doing all this just to guarantee that the Hotel Cedar facade remains, then it seems like all the developer needs to do is put in a guarantee that the facade will remain and be restored, and then this should all be moot.

    Post a Reply
    • Editor

      I wondered about that, too. My guess is that Reilly has no leverage to force the preservation of the facade. It’s not a landmarked building, and for all practical purposes, it’s not even his ward anymore. Maybe the zoning proposal was all he had to work with. Or maybe he’s using the zoning proposal as pressure to get the developer to commit to preserving the facade. Threatening to scuttle a building unless concessions are made by the developer wouldn’t be out of character.

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