LOGAN SQUARE — It’s been nearly two years since plans to build a boutique hotel in the heart of Logan Square won City Council approval. Since then, the site has seen virtually no activity, raising questions about whether the much-anticipated hotel will actually get built.
But, according to zoning attorney Rolando Acosta, who works for the developer behind the project, Blue Star Properties, the project is moving forward.
Acosta said the developer has been working behind the scenes to secure the final pieces of approval in what has become a long and unruly process.
“It’s not a very big project, but it has had so many layers of approvals that it’s just taken a long time,” Acosta said.
Blue Star didn’t respond to a request for comment Wednesday, but Acosta pointed to a small property adjacent to the building that includes the Logan Square Blue Line entrance and the Paseo Prairie Community Garden as the biggest hurdle to getting the hotel built on the long-vacant site at 2616-18 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Neither the CTA nor the city would claim ownership of the property for several months which caused a problem for the development team, which needed to identify the owner to build next door.
After several months, Blue Star finally determined the city owns the property and the development team is now on its way to obtaining a special use permit from the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals, which is needed to open a hotel in the city, Acosta said. The zoning attorney said he expects the application to go up for approval at the board’s January meeting.
Another reason the project has taken longer than anticipated is because it had to be approved by the Chicago Commission on Landmarks after securing final zoning approval from the City Council, Acosta said.
“They assume when we get zoning we’re done and don’t really focus on the fact that there are these tailing approvals that need to be secured like Landmarks,” he said of curious neighbors.
Chicago has been battling the coronavirus pandemic since March but Acosta said the public health and economic crisis hasn’t had a significant impact on the development plan, which has already been approved by city planners. Blue Star is still planning to build a boutique hotel with 44 rooms and two restaurants on the site.
The developer has enlisted 16″ on Center, the hospitality group behind Longman & Eagle, the Empty Bottle and other popular restaurants and music venues, to both serve as the hotel operator and run the restaurants, according to Acosta.
16″ on Center, which didn’t respond to requests for comment, replaced Holiday Jones and Fifty/50 Restaurant Group, which were initially tapped for the project. And Blue Star took the reins of the project from LG Development and Marc Realty, the original developers.
The Grace’s Furniture building is one of the most prominent structures overlooking Logan Square and the Illinois Centennial Monument.
Redevelopment of the building was held up for many 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 2016.
Grace Martinez and her family have owned the building since 1976.
If the special use permit process goes smoothly, Acosta said construction on the hotel could begin early next year. The developer had hoped to begin construction this past spring.
“It’s a matter of when the building permit gets issued … they’re itching to start. Everybody’s itching to start,” he said.
“They’ve spent the money. They have construction drawings and they’re working through the system.”
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