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Lincoln Park, Old Town

City Council Approves Revised Plan For Controversial Luxury Old Town Hotel

Developers plan to convert the O'Brien's Bar site into a hotel with an above-ground parking garage and two adjacent single-family homes.

While the proposed hotel at 1528 N. Wells St. looks roughly the same up front, neighbors are concerned about the changes to the rear of the development along Wieland Street.
Pappageorge Haymes Partners/ City of Chicago
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OLD TOWN — Plans to redevelop the former site of O’Brien’s Restaurant and Bar into a luxury hotel are moving forward after aldermen approved changes to its controversial design on Wednesday.

The 13-story hotel proposed by Condor Partners and Chicago Development Partners for 1528 N. Wells St. remains mostly unaltered. But developers now can pursue changes to the rear of the site, which drew opposition from neighbors in a Chicago Plan Commission virtual meeting last month.

Developers initially proposed to build four single-family homes behind the hotel along North Wieland Street, but they had to scale back after shifting the hotel’s 53-stall parking garage from underground to above-ground.

With City Council approval, the developers will now build just two single-family homes at the west end of the site that runs parallel to Wieland, making room for a parking garage between the hotel and the new dwellings.

Credit: Pappageorge Haymes Partners/ City of Chicago
Instead of occupying a full 80-foot-deep lot, the two new homes (shown in gray and white) on Wieland are turned “sideways” to accommodate the hotel’s repositioned parking garage.

The revised plan also boosts the number of guest rooms from 190 to 203.

Neighbors pushed back on the recent zoning amendment, saying the “shallower” layout of the homes would shrink the buffer between the 151-foot-tall hotel and Wieland from about 80 to 30 feet.

An online petition titled “Help stop [the] hotel on Wieland Street,” which opposes the recent zoning amendment, has also collected more than 400 signatures.

“Hundreds showed up to community meetings and were vehemently against the development,” Old Town resident Matt Blauvelt said. “We acquiesced, and now they’re changing the deal. We shouldn’t have to pay for the developers’ mistakes.”

Neighbor Andy Carter said the latest plan places the garage too close to the residential street where children play.

“They told us a below-ground garage costs too much. Is that my fault or my neighbor’s fault?” Carter said.

Ald. Walter Burnett Jr. (27th), whose ward encompasses the development’s site, supported the zoning change as a “great compromise” that would “enhance the street.”

“Wieland Street was the biggest issue [with] this development,” Burnett said. “You have to look at what was there before. This was a parking lot for a very long time.”

The new homes along Wieland are expected to be priced between $1.25 million and $1.5 million, according to developer Howard Weiner. The entire project will cost an estimated $100 million.

Chicago-based design firm Pappageorge Haymes Partners serves as the project architect.

Jake Wittich is a Report for America corps member covering Lakeview, Lincoln Park and LGBTQ communities across the city for Block Club Chicago.

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