Chick-fil-A planned for vacant parcel on Higgins where large hotel project near O’Hare never materialized due to scandal
by BRIAN NADIG
A Chick-fil-A restaurant is planned for the site of the former Howard Johnson motel at 8201 W. Higgins Ave., where plans for a convention complex with 994 hotel rooms failed to materialize years ago after Chinese investors reportedly were defrauded.
A former developer for the site ended up pleading guilty to charges that he faked and forged documents in securing $158 million from 290 investors under the EB-5 federal program, which grants permanent residency status to foreign investors. In 2017 he was sentenced to three years in prison.
The sentencing occurred about 8 years after the City Council had approved the massive 182-foot-tall hotel project, which to some critics seemed too large for the approximately three-acre site.
Plans had called for three separate hotels, 467 parking spaces and and 80,000 square feet of banquet, meeting, retail and restaurant space. The 41st Ward Zoning Advisory Committee had endorsed a smaller version of the project, which grew in size with the approval of city planning officials.
For the past several years the site has been used for storage.
Under the new proposal, plans call for the property to revert to its former B3-1 zoning, said Alderman Anthony Napolitano’s chief of staff Chris Vittorio. B3-1 zoning allows for a variety of retail, resultant and office uses.
Currently only the three-hotel plan can be built under the site’s current zoning, and the new developer, Friedman Properties, has asked that the city execute a sunset clause in the site’s planned development ordinance, Vittorio said. The clause allows the city to bring back the site’s former zoning when there has been no progress for at least six years on the construction of the previously approved development.
Napolitano has informed the city’s zoning administrator that he has no objections to executing the sunset clause because it would help bring new businesses to a longtime underdeveloped parcel, Vittorio said.
The developer has indicated that a second restaurant is being sought for the site, which is located between Hooters restaurant at 8225 W. Higgins Ave. and the Springhill Suites by Marriott at 8101 W. Higgins Ave., according to Vittorio.
If any of the restaurants on the development site plan to have a drive-through facility, a special use would have to be issued by the Zoning Board of Appeals.