Office, retail, residential complex planned next to Marriott O’Hare; developers like proximity to Blue Line
by BRIAN NADIG
About 500,000 square feet of office space, 200 residents units and several restaurants and stores are planned for a mixed-used development that would be constructed next to the Marriott O’Hare Hotel near Higgins and Cumberland avenues.
Host Hotels and Resorts, which owns the Marriott, is looking to sell the western half of the property, while it would continue to operate the hotel on the eastern portion of the site. A west wing of the hotel, whose lobby recently was renovated, has been demolished in anticipation of the sale, and plans call for the demolition of an office building that is located in the northwest corner of the property, according to project officials.
The proposal call for the construction of a 14-story apartment building and two office buildings, measuring eight and 10 stories. Several parking garages and about 65,000 square feet of retail space also are planned, and project officials said that they plan to request the installation of a traffic signal on Higgins in front of the development.
At the Aug. 5 meeting of the 41st Ward Zoning Advisory Board, members of the development team said that the 10-acre parcel, whose address is 8535 W. Higgins Ave., is underutilized given its proximity to the CTA’s Cumberland Blue Line Station. Plans call for a construction of a pedestrian path from the station to the site of the proposed retail, residential and office center.
“There are a lot of professionals who want to be able to jump on the Blue Line and be at O’Hare in 5 minutes or Downtown in 20 minutes,” project co-developer Tom Samuels of Thomas Samuels Enterprises said. “The Blue Line is becoming a conduit for young professionals all across the city.”
Board member Marc Pelini said that the project needed well-defined walkways which would allow office workers at the center to safely reach the planned restaurants and stores. “I don’t see a strong pedestrian link,” he said.
Project co-developer Jack Higgins of Higgins Development Partners said that Pelini’s concerns would be addressed in later phases of the project. Higgins said that the development team’s main concern at this time is to garner support for the overall concept of the project, which would require an amendment to the planned development ordinance that governs the site’s zoning.
The amendment primarily is needed to allow for the proposed residential units, as the planned height and density of the project and the proposed office uses conform to the restrictions included in the existing ordnance, according to project officials.
A resident at the meeting expressed concern that planned residential units would be apartments instead of condominiums and that 200 units could be a strain on the area’s overcrowded schools. The man said that renters tend to take less pride in the upkeep of their homes than owners do.
Alderman Anthony Napolitano said that the man’s concerns reflect those of the greater community. “That is going to be the question on everybody’s mind,” Napolitano said.
Project officials said that while they had not ruled out condominiums, the planned rents would be the highest in the area, about $1,600 for a studio and $3,000 for a two-bedroom unit, and that the building’s location on a busy thoroughfare likely would not be attractive to families with school-age children.