Wicker Park Hotel Plan Moves Forward

Northwest Tower gets zoning despite alderman's objection

A developer who wants to turn the tallest building in Wicker Park into a hotel won the approval of a zoning committee this week despite the objection of skeptical local Ald. Scott Waguespack.

If the plan comes to fruition, it would mark a major change at the Milwaukee-North-Damen intersection that is at the heart of one of the city's most vibrant and trendy entertainment districts. Local artists have posted live video of the busy corner from the building.

MCM Properties wants to convert the Northwest Tower (also known as the Flatiron Building), which is a city-designated historic landmark, into a 90-room hotel with a restaurant.

The original proposal filed in September caught the city's Department of Planning and Development by surprise, according to the Chicago Journal. Waguespack doesn't mind turning the Tower into a hotel, but has said that the plans from MCM and developer Krysztof Karbowski remain too sparse to evaluate.

He's not the only one who thinks so.

Crain'sreports that "An influential residents group, the Wicker Park Committee, voted against the special-use permit, citing MCM's 'vague, inaccurate' proposal for the hotel, among other gripes."

The Bucktown-Wicker Park Chamber of Commerce, on the other hand, supports Karbowski.

In an earlier story, Crain'sreported that, "The landmark Northwest Tower, which was built in 1929, isn’t the only big redevelopment candidate at the intersection of Damen, North and Milwaukee avenues. Chicago developer Jon Goldman paid $18.4 million in March for the Midwest Bank building at 1601 N. Milwaukee Ave., with plans to convert the property to retail use."

The zoning committee's approval was noteworthy because an alderman's wishes are rarely denied. Waguespack, however, may have been hampered politically because of his independence from the mayor, as well as the fact that Karbowski is represented by clouty zoning attorney James Banks - the nephew of 36th Ward Alderman William Banks, who chairs the city council's Zoning Committee.

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