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Lincoln Park, Old Town

Royal George Theater Apartments Plan Hits Another Roadblock As Neighbors Fight Zoning Change

Ald. Brian Hopkins said he won’t support the proposed development until neighbors’ concerns are addressed. Neighbors said new apartments would "completely alter the quiet enjoyment" of their homes.

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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OLD TOWN — Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd) won’t support the proposed redevelopment of a historical theater until developers address neighbors’ concerns about its design, size and impact on parking, he said at a community meeting Monday night. 

More than a hundred neighbors attended the meeting about the redevelopment of the closed Royal George Theater, 1641 N. Halsted St. The community forum was hosted at nearby Steppenwolf Theater, 1650 N. Halsted St. 

Some argued the new building wouldn’t fit the character of the neighborhood and would not provide much benefit to the community. 

But developers, the Lincoln Park Chamber of Commerce and other neighbors disagreed, saying it would revive the now-vacant building and bring much-needed affordable housing to the area.

Developers from Draper & Kramer presented plans to transform the space into a 90-foot luxury apartment building that would include a restaurant and 131 apartments, 20 of them affordable.

The project leaders want a zoning change because the building would be taller than current restrictions. If granted, they expect the project will cost $53 million and be completed in spring 2025, representatives said during the meeting. 

This is the seventh time developers have met with the community groups since announcing the project in June. In response to feedback, developers said they added more natural building materials and set back the front of the building, among other changes. 

But neighbors said they are still concerned about height and density of the building and don’t believe it suits the character of the neighborhood. 

Residents argued it would crowd North Halsted Street and “exacerbate existing parking challenges,” in a July petition opposing the project that has since been signed by nearly 200 people. 

“We have chosen to raise our families in this area because it offers a quiet and private setting amidst the city,” residents wrote. “A nine-story apartment building with 134 units, rows of outdoor balconies and a rooftop deck would completely alter the quiet enjoyment of our homes.”

A traffic study showed the development won’t impact the street or alley, even during peak times. Developers still agreed to limit delivery pickups, to make parking resident-only and repave the nearby alley.  

“We certainly talked about affordable housing, about activating the street, bringing a restaurant back to the location, really replacing what is unfortunately a wasted site right now,” said Gordon Ziegenhagen, senior vice president of Draper and Kramer. “I think those things have value.” 

Some neighbors defended the project, saying they think it will attract more visitors to the neighborhood and provide affordable housing.

The Lincoln Park Chamber of Commerce has also supported it, saying it will provide much-needed foot traffic in the area. 

Hopkins said the community’s concerns are “100 percent valid” and there’s still “much more work to do” before he could support the zoning change necessary for the proposed project. 

“I’ve heard a lot of questions about what the benefit to the community is,” Hopkins said. “We’re going to put that back on you guys, too, and ask, ‘What do you want?’ What can we do to make this project more palatable and more acceptable to the neighborhood?” 

Hopkins urged residents to continue contacting his office about what they want to see from developers as they continue to revise their plans. 

The Royal George Theater was a staple in Chicago’s theater scene, but never reopened after the pandemic forced it to close in 2020.

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