Residents concerned about parking options during boutique hotel construction

By CHRISTOPHER AMATI
Staff Writer

The developers of the boutique hotel that will be built on the corner of on the corner of 53rd Street and Dorchester Avenue sent flyers out to Hyde Park residents that live near the site, Friday, March 3, offering a select few valet parking during construction.

The Olympia Companies of Portland, Maine, co-developer of the site with Smart Hotels of Shaker Heights, Ohio, offered to rent out 10 valet parking spaces to residents living on Harper and Blackstone avenues 53rd Street and 54th Place and those living on 54th Street between Harper and Blackstone avenues at a discounted rate starting in mid-march.

Construction will soon begin on the Boutique Hotel, which according to the developer’s website, will feature 97 rooms and space for retail and a restaurant. There are already signs up prohibiting parking and construction vehicles are parked in the lot. 53rd Street was dug up and the water main for the former community policing station on the site was shut off prior to its impeding demolition.

A map from The Olympia Companies showing which residents were offered valet parking service at a discount rate during the construction of the boutique hotel on the corner of 53rd Street and Dorchester Avenue. Click to enlarge.

According to the flyer that was sent out, there will be ten valet parking spaces available for two years to residents in the five designated zones around the boutique hotel, the cost of the spaces are $75 per month, during construction there will be 24-hour valet pick up service at the Hyatt Place Hotel and after construction is finished there will be 24-hour valet pick up service at the boutique hotel.  Priority for the 10 spots was given to those who turned in the applications first.

Hyde Park resident Sandra McGonnagle said she and her neighbors were stunned when they received the letters and feel like Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) is keeping them in the dark.

“We can’t get ahold of Alderman Hairston,” said McGonnagle, adding that promises made at community meetings concerning the parking situation did not mention the current offer but rather dealt with pick-up and drop-off areas for guests of the residents.

She also said that a meeting with Hairston and the developers that was supposed to give the community a chance to comment on the development was not well advertised.

“No notice was given to the community,” said McGonnagle, who said that the only mention she knew about the February meeting was in the University of Chicago campus paper The Maroon.

She said she was also concerned that residents received the flyers on Friday, March 3, and only had until Sunday, March 5 to complete them. In addition, applicants were asked to confirm private ownership or rental statuses and supply a copy of a current driver’s license.

“Our master plan was very respectful to the community,” said Sara Masterson, vice president of hotel management of the Olympia Companies.

Masterson said there was a 12-month process of meetings and the developers had worked to keep residents in the affected area informed.  

Residents who applied and were selected for the valet service drop their cars off in front of the construction site, then the valets drive their cars to the Hyatt Place Chicago-South/University Medical Center, 5225 S. Harper Ave. When residents want to pick their cars up they go to the construction site and the valet retrieves their car from the Hyatt.

Masterson said that the offer of valet spaces benefits neighboring property owners directly impacted by the project and proceeds preferentially from the block closest to the construction area to that farthest away, with spaces becoming available in the more distant blocks if residents of the ones closer to the construction do not apply for them.

Masterson said there will be three off-site parking lots for construction worker vehicles, the workers will face a penalty if they do not use the designated lots.  

Kim Webb, spokesman for Hairston, said the alderman doesn’t anticipate that residents as far as three blocks away would be affected by the construction and that there wouldn’t be any disruption in neighborhood traffic or convenience at all.

“We don’t anticipate an impact on the community at all,” Masterson said. “We’re offering options to preempt any concerns.” 

Masterson said community meetings will continue through the construction period. As of Herald press time there were no upcoming meetings planned.

 c.amati@hpherald.com