Holiday Inn on Lake Street?

Longtime commercial building owner heads to zoning board

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By Dan Haley

Editor and Publisher

After decades of hopes and false starts, downtown Oak Park may become home to a nationally branded hotel if plans heading to the village government's Zoning Board of Appeals are approved and a special-use permit is granted by the village board.

Azim Hemani, owner of the commercial retail and office building at 1140 Lake St., will come to the zoning board in early November with a proposal to add three-stories to his existing five-story structure and to build a 75-room Holiday Inn Express & Suites hotel. The ground-floor commercial space is currently home to Nando's Peri-Peri restaurant. In January, the second retail space facing Lake Street will become the recreational marijuana outlet for MedMen, a company that has long leased space in the rear of that building for its medical marijuana business.

Tammie Grossman, head of Development Customer Services for the village, and Craig Failor, village planner, said Tuesday that the project has been under discussion for about 18 months but planning became more serious only in the past month. 

Grossman said Hemani is not seeking any height variances in his special-use application but will keep the building at 80 feet which is within current limits. Failor said the additional three floors will front the Lake Street side of the building. 

Office space currently on the second through fifth floors will be converted to hotel use. 

Mayor Anan Abu-Taleb said Tuesday that the hotel plan as proposed by Hemani does not seek any financial subsidies from the village government. "Projects such as this in the past would want cash from the village. We're at a point where there are no subsidies asked, nor do I think any would be granted," said Abu-Taleb, who added that he is not aware of parking discussions but noted the village has a 1,200-car parking garage just across the alley to the north of 1140 Lake St.

"I hope it starts and as quickly as possible," said Abu-Taleb. "At this point our job is to help facilitate plans and sometimes to just get out of the way."

Asked why Oak Park might now attract a new hotel after decades of trying, Abu-Taleb said he thought the added residential population in downtown Oak Park's new high-rises, its ready transit connection to the Loop and the vitality of its restaurants and shops were all factors.

Email: Twitter: @OPEditor

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Reader Comments

9 Comments - Add Your Comment

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Susan Montgomery from Chicago  

Posted: October 16th, 2019 12:31 PM

I agree with the comments about using the old Marshall Field's building for condos. With all of the recent development in Downtown Oak Park, this lovely old building should be given a priority!

Jolyn Crawford  

Posted: October 16th, 2019 11:54 AM

A local OP architect should convert the 1144 Lake to vintage condos!

Maggie Den Hartog from Oak Park  

Posted: October 16th, 2019 11:03 AM

The hotel might be a great idea, but Abu-Taleb's toss-off comment on "noting" that there is a 1200-space parking garage just across the alley shows where his mind$et is. Bringing in a 75-room hotel with no parking accommodations is unconscionable. For the hotel guests and for OP residents who depend on finding a space in that garage every day. Hopefully this developer has some sense.

Kris Gallagher  

Posted: October 16th, 2019 9:01 AM

This is fantastic news. I've hoped for an additional hotel option for two decades. That was the original rationale for the height variance for the building at Forest and Lake with Cooper's Hawk on the ground level--while that was a bait and switch, adding three stories and staying within existing code sounds great. Our existing hotels have charm and character but limited space for people with disabilities, such as my mother.

Mark Ruehl  

Posted: October 15th, 2019 10:48 PM

This is another positive development for downtown Oak Park. Yet I don't understand why the 1144 Building has remained vacant for a decade, which would look great as an elegant old hotel, complete with a solarium that could be used for elegant dining, or even high tea.

Patricia O'Shea  

Posted: October 15th, 2019 6:36 PM

This is great. There is not enough lodging close to Oak Park. For the funeral we are hosting this week our guests have to go to Hillside or the city because local options are booked out.

Renee Geweniger Zoltowski  

Posted: October 15th, 2019 5:26 PM

Being a travel agent, I see this as something really good for the village. Especially for those who come for weddings and FLW events.

Leonard Grossman  

Posted: October 15th, 2019 4:19 PM

Oh. And then the president who would be Mayor will have succeeded in his vision of turning Oak Park into a completely generic town. But hey.

Jeff Schroeder from Oak Park  

Posted: October 15th, 2019 4:00 PM

Holiday Inn and Holiday Inn Express locations are located all over American, including cities with populations under 10,000 people (ie. Ludington, MI). I assume that what kept them away previously was Oak Park's reputation as a tough place to do business. Hopefully, this is a reflection of a more business friendly Village. I am curious if the presence of families staying at the new hotel will create a conflict with the location of the Cannabis business. Or would the latter's location be grandfathered in?

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