Group that battled Boystown's OUT Hotel goes broke, ends organization

Thu. February 27, 2014 9:06 AM by Andy Ambrosius

belmont harbor neighbors reject out hotel in july 2013

photo credit // andy ambrosius

Legal issues and dwindling memberships are to blame for the end of the 40-year-old group.

Chicago, IL - The neighborhood organization that shut down the proposed "straight friendly" OUT Chicago Hotel in Boystown is dissolving, with the group's president blaming costly legal fees and dwindling membership for its decline.

The volunteer board of Belmont Harbor Neighbors voted to officially end the 40-year-old Lakeview non-profit last week, with the board's president Doug Ochab partially blaming legal issues with the controversial OUT hotel, DNAInfo Chicago reports. Other group members noted the decision was about finances in general, with membership declining.

The legal fees Ochab is referring to surrounded a highly publicized neighborhood battle with the proposed Boystown hotel at 3343 N. Halsted St. last summer, ending in July with a unanimous vote by group leaders to not support $30 million development.

Rifts in the organization appeared to begin last summer, when the BHN board clashed with Lakeview business owners and employees over plans for the Out Hotel Chicago, reporter Serena Dai writes.

BHN was forced to hire legal counsel after a Boystown business owner threatened to take the organization to the Illinois attorney general if Ochab and his wife didn't step down from the board, claiming the two violated state non-profit laws by only allowing those who lived in a certain proximity to the proposal to vote and ignoring area business owners who were in favor of the hotel.

The group's unanimous vote was followed by Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) rejecting the most recent design proposal by the hotel's backers, Parkview Developers. By that point, the development already received support from Northalsted Business AllianceLakeview Chamber of Commerce and the Triangle Neighbors Association.

Parkview Developers' Ian Reisner, however, still has hope for the major project in Lakeview, telling ChicagoPride.com after Tunney's rejection that he still plans to move forward with the project.

"It's back to the drawing board," Reisner said. "We're looking at ways to re-slice and dice it to address [Tunney's] immediate concerns about the Cantilever approach to design as well as the material selection... to be more community oriented."

Reisner could not immediately be reached for comment about what BHN's dissolution would mean for the hotel's progress.

The new designs will are expected to address the height issue, which has been a constant change in the re-designs: the most recent shows eight floors with the top set back from the street, while the original proposal had 12.

In response to Tunney's suggestion of relocating, Reisner points out that he's rejected this several times in the past, having already contacted the viable spaces on Halsted and finding that the space above Minibar is the only location that fits his needs.

A boutique hotel, he said in an email statement to ChicagoPride.com, usually needs a strong bar business to work, but Boystown doesn't need any more bars. By strategically locating above Minibar and next to Sidetrack, Reisner said he won't need to compete in the already competitive and saturated market.
 

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