LOGAN SQUARE — Redevelopment of the old Grace’s Furniture building in the heart of Logan Square has taken yet another turn as the developers behind the long-delayed project have dumped city-approved plans to open a boutique hotel on the site.
Now, developers Blue Star Properties and Marc Realty are looking to redevelop the Grace’s Furniture site, 2616-18 N. Milwaukee Ave., into a mixed-use project with Logan Square Athletic Club as its anchor tenant, said Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th).
The gym would operate under the Chicago Athletic Club brand, which has several locations in the city, including in Bucktown, Lincoln Park and the West Loop, Ramirez-Rosa said. A restaurant/cafe is planned for the first floor.
The proposal still needs landmark and zoning approval and is under review by neighborhood group Logan Square Preservation, Ramirez-Rosa said.
Scaffolding recently went up at the site as developers have begun restoring the building’s terra cotta. The work is being done in response to safety concerns. The building, previously family-owned since the ’60s, has deteriorated over the years and is in need of immediate upgrades, Ramirez-Rosa said.
“The Department of Planning and Development and myself have expressed that we need to make sure the building is secure and stabilized,” the alderman said.
Attempts to reach the developers and the Chicago Athletic Club were unsuccessful Wednesday.
The Logan Square Athletic Club proposal is the latest in a string of efforts to redevelop the Grace’s Furniture building, which has sat vacant for years despite being one of the most prominent structures overlooking Logan Square and the Illinois Centennial Monument.
For years, redevelopment was held up by a legal battle over billboards on the side of the building. Facing pressure from local preservationists, the city banned the billboards in 2013. The company that owned the billboards, Visualcast, sued the city, but the city emerged victorious, and the last remaining billboard came down in 2016.
Since then, developers sought city and community approval to convert the site into a boutique hotel.
LG Development and Marc Realty were the original developers.
Holiday Jones and Fifty/50 Restaurant Group were initially brought on to serve as the operators; then 16″ on Center, the hospitality group behind Longman & Eagle, the Empty Bottle and other popular restaurants and music venues, was tapped for the project.
That plan called for a boutique hotel with 44 rooms and two restaurants.
But the project never got off the ground.
In 2020, the developers’ zoning attorney said they struggled for months to figure out whether the city or the CTA owned a small property adjacent to the building, which held up the approvals process.
Even after that issue was resolved, the developers ultimately decided to scrap the hotel plans altogether, citing financial concerns amid the pandemic, Ramirez-Rosa said.
“I’m sad to hear that they’re not going to move forward with the hotel, but I understand why, given the current landscape that we’re in with COVID-19,” Ramirez-Rosa said. “I want to make sure at the end of the day that the design is something that complements the square.”
The Logan Square Athletic Club proposal looks similar to the hotel project, Ramirez-Rosa said. If approved, the facade of the building will be restored. The developers are also working toward preserving the original Grace’s Furniture sign, the alderman said.
The terra cotta work is a sign the developers are “taking the steps necessary” to finally redevelop the site after years of fits and starts, Ramirez-Rosa said.
“I’ve had a number of meetings with the development team to push them along and ask them what support they need to get this done, and the ball is really in their court to move this forward,” he said.
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