Chicago developer Friedman Properties has raised the curtain on its new plan for a north side block popular with tourists and already sporting two other skyscrapers.
We first told you about the project back in January, and showed you pictures of it last week. Now Albert Friedman is talking about what he wants to do with the property at the corner of North Rush Street and East Superior Street.
The idea is to build two hotels, one on top of the other, inside a narrow, 45-story skyscraper. At this time, the plan is not set in stone, but Mr. Friedman is leaning towards putting an extended-stay Hyatt House hotel on the top, and an all-suites Hyatt Place on the bottom. The architect is Dick Mann from NORR, the design architect is Todd Halamk, and the retail architect is the Aria Group.
You may remember that last year another developer tried to build a Hyatt House hotel on top of a parking garage on Wabash Street, across from Trump International Hotel and Tower.
This new development from Friedman Properties would have 620 rooms between the two hotels. The goal is to price the rooms between $150 and $170 per night. Other hotels in the area start at $299, and go into the thousands.
Mr. Friedman believes there is plenty of demand for mid-market hotel rooms in the area. He identifies several scenarios, including serving the out-of-town guests of people who live in downtown Chicago; people who have to stay near the Northwestern Hospitals for medial treatment; or people who want to attend their friends’ weddings at Michigan Avenue’s fancy hotels, but can’t afford to stay in them.
The tower is designed as a very thin, 444-foot-tall blue glass structure. Its north and south faces are just 65 feet wide. East and west facades, overlooking Michigan Avenue and Holy Name Cathedral, are 123 feet wide.
As mentioned earlier, it sits on a block with two residential skyscrapers, the 37-story Chicagoan and the 26-story Bernardin. This new tower is positioned so that it is set back 72 feet from Rush Street, and 74 feet from the next nearest tower.
While the shiny new skyscraper is being built mid-block, the famous dark brick Giordano’s restaurant is also part of the equation. Part of that building will be incorporated into the hotel. In addition, the developer wants to put new retail stores along the Rush and Superior Street sides of the old building.
So, what happens to one of the city’s great tourist draws? It moves upstairs.
Phase one of the project involves building a new, larger, dining room for Giordano’s on the second floor of its existing building, with some room for waiting guests down below. In Mr. Friedman’s plan, the pizza joint doesn’t ever have to close while the project is being built.
The vacated ground floor then becomes available for three new stores on Rush Street, and two new shops on Superior Street.
The new hotel’s entrance will be located just west of the existing Giordano’s building, replacing a grey stone facade. It is also set back from the lot line an additional five feet to ensure that tourists can see the restaurant building and its sign.
This is the only exposure to the street the hotel has, as guests are whisked up to the second floor where the lobby is for registration. And there is no parking entrance because the hotel has no parking.
This is a big bone of contention with some who live in the neighborhood. They oppose the hotel because they worry it will bring in too much traffic, or contribute too little parking, or both.
To the first point, that the hotel will bring too many additional cars to the area, the developer has made a number of provisions:
- The plans have a loading zone that is just five feet wide. This is a new CDOT specification that the city hopes will prevent people from edging into the lay-by lane and double parking.
- The developer expects 80% of guests to arrive by taxi, and most of the rest by public transportation. This is because people who are paying $150 a night for a hotel aren’t the same sort of people who are OK with paying $50 to $70 a night for parking.
- Those who do arrive by private car will be valeted to spaces in nearby parking garages. Standard Parking estimates there are 300 spaces available for the hotel to use in the immediate area. Neighbors who park in those same garages describe this assertion as a pants-on-fire situation.
- The developer estimates that between 50 and 60 cars per day will arrive at the hotel.
- People will not be allowed to call down for the valet to bring their car around. They’ll have to wait in the lobby for their car, so the car isn’t left waiting in the street for them.
- While the area does have continuing trouble with certain hotels using the street as their own private parking lots, this developer’s hotels are among those that are considered the best behaved in this regard.
The second point, from those who think the hotel should have a garage to contribute more parking to the area is a bit more difficult, and illustrative of the city’s shift from those who pioneered high-rise living in decades past, and those who are popularizing it today.
- Adding more parking spaces is considered a bad thing by modern standards. Urban planners and traffic engineers have found that in Chicago if you add more parking spaces, you just make traffic worse.
- Most people hate when a developer puts up a skyscraper in Chicago and the bottom five or six or ten floors are all ugly, faceless parking garage
- Fewer people have cars in downtown today than in times past. Downtown Chicago has three car sharing services, plus buses, plus trains, plus taxis, plus rideshare services. According to census figures, hundreds of thousands of people in Chicago get along just fine without a car.
- A Standard Parking representative says his company has seen a drop in the number of people driving to Chicago hotels because the hotels keep raising the rates
- Another parking garage means another curb cut, which means another risk to pedestrian safety on a block with already crowded sidewalks
At a recent public meeting about this hotel proposal, the “we need more parking spaces” crowd did make a good point in noting that a 620 room hotel will put pressure on the already limited supply of parking in the area, driving the city’s stratospheric parking rates even higher. A check of BestParking.com shows that the two garages nearest to the proposed hotel location with posted rates charge $310 and $345 per month to park. There is no incentive for the developer or his parking company of choice to help bring that rate down. It does come off as very quid-pro-quo.
This project is still in its very early stages, and 42nd Ward Alderman Brendan Reilly promises another round of public input before he signs off on anything. Even if everything were to go swimmingly forward, the hotel likely wouldn’t be open until 2017.