Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Developer hoping for 2019 opening for two biz traveler hotels at 53rd and Cicero

By Joan Hadac
Editor and Publisher
Southwest Chicago Post

After a year of hearing rumors about how a Florida-based developer may bring the long-vacant property at 5301 S. Cicero back to life, Archer Heights neighbors finally heard from the developer himself.

Charles Everhardt, principal of Lockwood Development
An Archer Heights neighbor (left) chats with Charles Everhardt.
Partners, spoke to about two dozen men and women at a recent meeting at St. Richard Church. The public gathering was organized by the Archer Heights Civic Association, which has long advocated for the improvement of the site.

Plans call for construction of two high-end, limited-service hotels geared to business travelers using nearby Midway Airport. One is a four-story, SpringHill Suites by Marriott that would front Cicero Avenue. The other, immediately east, is set to be a six-story Cambria Hotels & Suites.

With a price tag of about $80 million, the hotels should have a total of about 285 rooms, as well as a multi-story parking structure, on the nearly three-acre parcel.

Everhardt said that if all goes according to plan, ground will be broken in late summer, with the hotels opening for business 18 months later, in early 2019.

A view of the proposed complex, looking southeast from 53rd and Cicero.

“This can’t happen soon enough,” said AHCA President Thomas S. Baliga, who likened Everhardt to a “white knight” riding in to save the property. He expressed a hope that the new hotel complex will “serve as an anchor for the re-development of Cicero Avenue all the way north to the Stevenson Expressway.”

A handful of men and women who live immediately east of the planned development peppered Everhardt with questions, mostly seeking and receiving assurances that hotel traffic—both autos and shuttle buses—will be carefully channeled in and out of Cicero Avenue and not disrupt traffic on 53rd Street, Keating or Kilpatrick.

For months before this week’s meeting, both the AHCA and 23rd Ward Ald. Michael R. Zalewski have worked with Everhardt to address traffic-flow and other concerns—resulting in, among other things, a separate lane on hotel property, specifically for shuttle buses.

Another key to the development is a first-ever traffic light to be installed at 53rd and Cicero. The Chicago Department of Transportation has approved the idea. The next step is getting the green light from the Illinois Department of Transportation, since Cicero Avenue is a state road.
A light at 53rd and Cicero “would be welcome for us all,” said AHCA member Juanita Beltran, who has lived in the immediate area for nearly 17 years. “Right now, it’s just about impossible to drive west on 53rd Street and then make a left to go south on Cicero. It’s too dangerous. A stop light would change all that.” 

If the hotels are built and prosper, it will end years of ups and downs for the property. Two decades ago, the site was home to a new American National Bank building. When the bank folded, the space was taken over by then-City Clerk James J. Laski Jr. and turned into a service center that dispensed city vehicle stickers and more.

When those operations moved out after Laski left office, just a few medical offices remained. From about 2008-11 the building was vacant and the subject of a fair amount of back-and-forth in court before it was demolished.

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