NORTH CENTER — A proposal to transform a North Center apartment building into a hotel faces a major roadblock after the local alderman declined to endorse it.
The building at 2257 W. Irving Park Road was built two years ago. Since at least January 2019, apartments in the building have been offered for short-term vacation rentals on websites such as AirBnB and Vrbo, with the building dubbed The Irving On Oakley.
In June, its owners began seeking approval from the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals to convert the building into a formal hotel.
Dozens of neighbors participated in in a July meeting and sent comments to Ald. Matt Martin’s office, said Josh Mark, Martin’s director of development and infrastructure. Only one person said they supported the project, prompting Martin to send the Zoning Board a letter of opposition.
Aldermen have broad latitude to approve or block what gets built in their wards, so formally opposing a project often means the proposal is dead in the water. But the Zoning Board will have the final say and has ignored Martin’s requests in the past.
In the July 30 community meeting hosted by Mark, neighbors blasted the plans and developers for not soliciting their input much earlier into the process.
“This is disingenuous. You are only talking to us now because you need us now for this special use permission. What’s your alternative if this is denied by the city?” resident Mickey MacMillan said. “I feel like you only care about us when our opinion can serve you. Better to ask for forgiveness than permission.”
Neighbors also said they were concerned about holding the off-site owners accountable for issues at the property, the potential for increased noise in the neighborhood, and that a hotel would further erode the housing stock available to families who want to buy a home in North Center.
Housing costs in North Center have risen dramatically in recent decades, and the neighborhood has become less accessible to middle-income families whose children would benefit from the area’s public schools, Mark said.
The property was once home to the Windy City Inn. But the bar’s owners said in 2016 they were blindsided to learn the building was being sold to a developer, forcing them to move out.
The building was sold and replaced with the current building, which has six three-bedroom apartments and vacant first-floor commercial space.
Cook County property records show the property is owned by Urban Ventures and Mike Kane Investments.
“A number of neighbors emphasized the need for long-term family-sized housing in the North Center community,” Mark said. “Ald. Martin believes that family-sized apartments on arterial streets, like the six units in this application, are vital to filling this gap by providing a lower-cost option for families to live in North Center.”
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