Downtown’s newest hotel proposal was unveiled this week at a public meeting hosted by the Streeterville Organization of Active Residents. The proposed 24-story,395-room hotel would replace a three-story building at 237 East Ontario Street which was most recently been used as a film studio, but has since sat vacant for the last 10 years. Before it was used as a film studio, the building served as the home for the Museum of Contemporary Art.

The proposal comes from Tishman Realty Corporation, a developer that specializes in hotel construction and the sustained ownership thereafter. Tishman has owned the Sheraton Hotel, where this week’s public meeting was held, for 23 years and counting. Tishman also developed, but has since sold the Westin River North and has recently purchased the Amalgamated Bank Building on State Street and an office building at 200 East Ontario Street, likely locations for future new development.

Screen Shot 2015-12-10 at 10.16.02 AMFor the 237 East Ontario project, the developer has hired the architecture firms of Valerio Dewalt Train Associates (VDT) and Wolf Landscape Architecture. VDT’s specialty is modern design such as the EnV apartment tower at Kinzie and Wells Streets, and this proposal is certainly no different. The building fronts onto the Ontario sidewalk for the first two floors and the steps back from the street where the hotel rooms begin on the third level. The guest rooms are arranged with 20 rooms per floor in a typical mix of doubles and kings and maintain this floor plan until the 23rd floor where an amenity deck tops the building. The amenity deck includes an indoor pool, fitness center and an outdoor rooftop patio. The building is then capped with extensive green room.

The site, like much of the area alongside the Magnificent Mile is zoned DX-12, one of the highest classifications in the city. Tishman is proposing a total floor area ratio (FAR) of 15.20, using the 12 base FAR allowed in the existing zoning and then acquiring density bonuses through the use of the green roofs and upper level setbacks in the design. Because the height of the hotel as proposed tops out at a modest 262 feet, a planned development is not needed and the bonuses may be applied through the use of an administrative adjustment. This will allow approval to move a bit more swiftly. Tishman is expecting an approximate 18 month construction cycle, but no clear start date is yet known.

In the downtown area, transportation mode share for hotels is expected to be heavily focused on walking, public transportation and taxis. It was estimated that only 28 percent of the guest’s trip will be made by private cars. As such, there are no on-site parking spaces and the anticipated maximum of 40-50 cars per day would be accommodated by a valet service utilizing neighborhood garages such as the nearby facilities owned by Northwestern University.

It was acknowledged that this block of Ontario Street does have a chronic problem with vehicular backups in the evening rush hour periods, but this is primarily because of unsynchronized traffic signals at the intersections with St Clair Street and Michigan Avenue, which can have the timing altered. The design team has included two points of entry for standing vehicles, including three spaces on the street within an existing loading zone and a porte-cochere. The porte-cochere would be located within a ground-level setback, separated from an adjacent alley by diagonal columns. The alley itself would be widened into the eastern edge of the property by three feet, making the now proposed 21-foot wide alley wide enough for passing vehicles. A second alley runs along the southern edge of the property where two loading docks would be located.

The Ontario Street sidewalk would receive four new trees, three of which in grates and the fourth to be located in a new raised landscape planter. Tishman offered to replace nearby trees which are in poor condition along Ontario Street and will make a donation towards the upcoming redevelopment of Ogden Park located to the southeast at Illinois Street and Columbus Drive.

The ground floor would have a lobby and a small dinning area where breakfast would be served, but no lunch and then reopening for bar service with a small menu, typical of limited service hotels. The lobby would be a two story space, flanked by second floor meeting rooms. While no flag has been chosen for the hotel, Tishman is in negations with three different possibilities. The proposal could also be subject to additional design tweaks before adding to Chicago’s continuing hotel boom.

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