By Dan Haley
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.
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