LOGAN SQUARE — A plan to convert the long-vacant Grace’s Furniture building into a boutique hotel won the support of residents at a recent community meeting, which all but guarantees it’ll come to fruition.
An overwhelming majority of the residents who attended the meeting, held June 6 at Norwegian Lutheran Memorial Church, 2614 N. Kedzie Ave., voted in favor of the project — 105 out of 116, to be exact. The tally was taken immediately after the meeting, and 35th Ward Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa’s office is still accepting feedback.
“I strongly believe this is a very positive project for this community,” Jerry, a resident who did not give her last name, said toward the end of public comment.
“As for this area changing, areas change. I think there’s a lot of things we can do to support education, instead of trying to control who moves into the area. As for this block, we could really use a nice little hotel,” she added, eliciting the biggest round of applause of the night.
Under Ramirez-Rosa’s community-driven zoning process, the project, at 2618 N. Milwaukee Ave., will likely sail to final zoning approval.
“It will be this meeting, this process that determines the future of what happens [on this site],” the alderman told residents at the meeting.
The developers behind the project, LG Development and Marc Realty, are teaming up with Fifty/50 Restaurant Group and operator Holiday Jones on the hotel.
Plans call for 44 rooms and two restaurants. Rooms will likely rent for around $150 per night, which is a typical rate for Holiday Jones-operated properties. The operator currently runs hostels in Wicker Park, East Village and River North.
Details are still being finalized, but Scott Weiner, co-owner of Fifty/50 Restaurant Group, described the ground-floor restaurant as a brunch spot that captures the spirit of the neighborhood. Weiner couldn’t share much about the rooftop restaurant either except to say that it will not be a sports bar like Fifty/50, the group’s namesake bar on Division Street.
“We’re looking for chef talent, someone who grew up here,” Weiner said.
Brian Goldberg, CEO of LG Development, said his team is committed to hiring locally, both within the restaurants and on the hotel operation side. Weiner said the restaurants won’t be hiring union workers, which upset some residents.
The developers said they’re also committed to maintaining the Paseo Prairie Garden, located just steps from the site. A seating area exclusively for hotel guests is also planned, though some residents said they’d like to see it be made public.
The residents who spoke in opposition to the project at the meeting said they fear the hotel is another symbol of gentrification.
“They’re saying [the hotel] is good for the neighborhood. I don’t know if these people were born or live in Logan Square, but I feel like they’re pushing for middle class people [to live here]. Everything looks so fake to me,” lifelong Logan Square resident Edith Bautista said during public comment.
The 27-year-old recalled a recent walk down Milwaukee Avenue with her nephew who remarked that the influx of new establishments aren’t places where he would ever hang out.
“It just seems like this is going to be a small Wrigleyville. That doesn’t seem good for the community,” she added.
Another resident, Isaac Maria, said the neighborhood has pressing needs that aren’t being addressed with a boutique hotel proposal.
“Now that there’s money to be made, we’re all here,” Maria said. You know what we need? We need [affordable] housing.”
Redevelopment of the building, one of the most prominent structures overlooking Logan Square and the Illinois Centennial Monument, has been held up for years by a legal battle over the billboards on the side of the building facing the square.
The city banned billboards on the side of the building in 2013, and the billboards’ owner, Visualcast, fought the measure in court. The city won the lawsuit and the last billboard was removed in May of 2016.
If all goes according to plan, construction on the hotel will begin in early 2019 and take about a year and three months, according to the development team. The developers are aiming for a summer 2020 opening.
Ramirez-Rosa said the current proposal has been thoroughly vetted over the course of many months by him and his staffers, as well as various neighborhood groups.
“When I ran for office, I spoke with people at the Logan Square Chamber of Commerce and different community groups, and they said, ‘You know what would be great? A boutique hotel would be great for Milwaukee [Avenue],'” Ramirez-Rosa said.
“It would bring people from across the U.S. to Logan Square who want to shop here and go to the restaurants. It would be an asset for years and years to come.”