Grupo Habita is the hotel operator for Wicker Park's new North West Tower complex

Date: 
03/20/2014
NWTower

Right side of Tower is Milwaukee Ave. New structure will be north of Hollander

Grupo Habita will be operating the new  hotel complex in the North West Tower Building at North and Milwaukee Avenues by Damen Ave., as revealed during the Chicago Planning Commission meeting Thurs., Mar. 20 in the City Council Chambers.

Grupo Habita, formed in 2000, currently owns and/or operates 14 hotels in Mexico and one in New York City. 

Founded by Carlos Couturier, Moises Micha, Jaime Micha and Rafael Micha, they have become known for focusing on the design, working with architects and designers including TEN Arquitectos / Enrique North, India Mahdavi, Joseph Dirand, Arnaud Montigny and Ricardo Legorreta. 

Convexity's selection of GH was the result of an exhaustive search to find a boutique hotel operator that would be the perfect fit for the community and the building. With GH, they found an operator that has significant experience with the adaptive reuse of historic buildings, having converted three existing structures into hotels. 

Hotel Americano in Chelsea, New York City, is their largest hotel property to date. It has 56 hotel keys and is described as being more than a hotel. "It is an experience that becomes an extension of a city and a beacon of culture."

To date the name of the hotel has not been selected. While Grupo Habita has been working with Convexity's team including architects, engineers, interior designers since November, the official naming has not occurred.

At Thursday's Planning Commission meeting presentation, approval was given for the restoration and reuse of the existing 12-story and 5-story structures on the site and the addition of a rooftop to the 12-story building with a new 2-story addition adjacent to the 5-story structure. 

With the approval, the next step for the complex is the Committee on Zoning to obtain a rezoning. Currently the properties are a mix of M1-2 (Limited Manufacturing / Business Park District) and B3-2 (Community Shopping District). The request is to make the entire complex B3-5 (Community Shopping District) and then to a Business Planned Development (BPD). (For zoning details see 17-3). 

Once the zoning change is secured, exterior work will begin on the two existing buildings. Currently they are targeting mid-to-late August for building permits. Once obtained the new building and Internal construction could begin. According to Convexity's Evan Meister, construction of the rooftop  would most likely happen in the fall. 

When completed, the complex will incorporate 120 hotel keys as well as retail on the ground floor, 10 parking stalls and one loading berth. 

Two approvals
In the last few weeks, Convexity received two other approvals. One was from Alderman Bob Fioretti, 2nd Ward Alderman, who expressed his support of the complex and the other from Chicago Landmarks for a Class L status. The Class L is a Property Tax Incentive, which was designed to encourage preservation and rehabilitation of landmark commercial, industrial and income-producing non-for-profit buildings. 

Class L provides for assessment levels on the property improvements to be assessed at 10% for the first 10 years, 15% the following year and 20% in the 12th year. In the 13th year the assessment is based on the total value again. 

Traffic change
Both the Wicker Park Committee and Scott Waguespack's 32nd Ward Office have approved the flow of traffic to be two-way on Concord from Milwaukee Ave. to the alley. This allows for the least amount of traffic impact from the complex's valet garage and service deliveries. 

Project Background
The purchase of the Northwest Tower and Hollander Fireproof Warehouse plus two additional lots to the north was by the partnership of Don Wilson, head of DRW Holdings, LLC and AJ Capital Partners. Convexity, the real estate and management arm of DRW, has been the team that has been working on the development which is being done under the name of 1600 N. Milwaukee Ventures LLC.

Future
Earliest opening for the complex will be the spring of 2015, though that could slip to fall.  

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