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Lincoln Park, Old Town

Closed Royal George Theater Could Become 8-Story Apartment Building

The proposal received mixed reaction from neighbors, with some saying the project would bring much-needed foot traffic to the area while others criticized its size.

A rendering shows Draper & Kramer's plans to build an 8-story apartment building at the site of the shuttered Royal George Theater.
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LINCOLN PARK — The Royal George Theater building could be converted into apartments but some neighbors are concerned about the height of the proposed structure.

Developers from Draper & Kramer want to bring an eight-story building with 133 units to former site of the theater, 1649 N. Halsted St. Royal George closed in 2020 because of the pandemic.

Developers presented their plans for the building during a Wednesday community meeting hosted by Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd).

“I want to stress that no decision has been made,” Hopkins said. “This is part of an open process where we try to evaluate the interests and concerns of the community with the need for our city to move forward and grow and promote economic development.”

If plans are approved, Draper & Kramer would go forward with constructing the 90-foot building with the goal of finishing by spring 2024, said Gordon Ziegenhagen, senior vice president of the firm.

The building would have 12 studios, 25 “traditional” one-bedroom apartments, 68 loft-style one-bedrooms, 26 two-bedrooms and two three-bedrooms, Ziegenhagen said.

Because the site is 463 feet from the North/Clybourn CTA station, the building qualifies as a transit-oriented development, said Jeff Goulette, design principal for SGW Architecture & Design, which is working on the project. As such, plans for the building include 35 off-street parking spaces.

The building would also have 4,500 square feet of ground floor retail, which is set back so businesses can have “a generous opportunity for sidewalk cafe treatment,” Goulette said.

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The rear of the building was designed to be more attractive to neighbors who bordered it.

Kim Schilf, president and CEO of the Lincoln Park Chamber of Commerce, praised the proposal, saying it would bring more density to the commercial corridor along Halsted Street.

“The addition of the 133 new apartments … will provide some much-needed density to the corridor,” Schilf said. “It’s really important that we increase foot traffic and create a larger pool of residents to spend money locally.”

The proposed ground-floor restaurant with outdoor dining space would “enliven the street” and add more eyes to the area, improving safety, Schilf said.

“From a business perspective and a chamber perspective, we really believe this project will have a positive benefit to the community and will really help sustain Halsted Street as a thriving commercial district,” Schilf said.

But some neighbors said the proposal is too tall and would crowd Halsted Street.

Anne Moore, chair of the Lincoln Central Association’s Zoning Committee, said the group has reviewed the proposal twice and is “very concerned by the height and density of this building.”

“This is a small-scale neighborhood,” Moore said. “This building is too big.”

Hopkins said his office will be in touch with neighbors as the proposal’s review process continues.

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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