News Source: www.chicagobusiness.com
Chicago developers planning Near North Side hotel
News Source/Courtesy: www.chicagobusiness.com

Courtesy: Danny Ecker | News Source: chicagobusiness.com

A group of Chicago real estate investors want to turn a former school building on the Near North Side into a hotel, betting the good times will continue for the downtown hospitality market.

A venture led by developers Robert Buono and Paul Utigard plan to redevelop the property at 1035-1065 N. Orleans St. into an eight-story hotel, according to a zoning application filed with the city.

The project would entail adding six stories onto a vacant two-story building at the corner of Orleans and Hill Street that used to serve as the Immaculate Conception St. Joseph School and turning a gymnasium on site into a 450-person event space, according to the application. The property, which is along elevated CTA tracks just west of Walter Payton College Prep High School, would also include four apartments and no parking, an allowance the developers hope to win from the city because of its proximity to public transportation.

With the city's approval for the project, the developers would acquire the property from Chicago-based real estate investment company Glascott. A Glascott venture bought the site in May from the Archdiocese of Chicago, according to Cook County property records.

It's a wager on a downtown hotel market that has seen a rush of new supply over the past few years. Several years of record-setting tourism to the city and a surge of business travelers as companies have migrated downtown from the suburbs have swelled demand and fueled development of thousands of new rooms. Hotel investors have enjoyed the spoils, though revenues have recently taken a dip amid a slow year for the biggest conventions at McCormick Place, which typically compress demand or rooms in the city.

Buono and Utigard, who couldn't be reached for comment, aren't the only ones that envision more heads in beds on the Near North Side. Their application is the second submitted in as many months for a new hotel just steps from the Cabrini-Green public housing complex. In September, a venture led by Chicago real estate developer Daniel Rezko proposed a 216-room hotel at 808 N. Cleveland Ave., just south of the housing complex and a little more than a block east of the Groupon headquarters building at 600 W. Chicago Ave.

Buono and Utigard have been especially active in the multifamily sector. A venture led by Buono, principal of Chicago-based Henry Street Partners, led the development of the MiCa apartment towers in Logan Square and another apartment building at 1611 W. Division St. next to the CTA Division Blue Line station.

But others involved in the Orleans Street project have more of a hospitality background. Investors include Robert Baum and Mike Downing of Chicago-based Bedderman Lodging, which have opened boutique hotels in Wrigleyville and a few blocks south of the Orleans Street site.

Also involved is Chicago investor Lucas Blahnik and Stuart Grannen, who owned Architectural Artifacts shop in Ravenswood for more than three decades before shuttering it last year.

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