Gas Station Owner Says Bike-Riding Wicker Park Needs A Hotel Instead

By Emma G. Gallegos in News on Jul 31, 2015 5:00PM

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RIP gas stations (Google Maps)

The owner of a gas station in Wicker Park says the time has come for him to raze his gas station and make way for something more useful to the neighborhood—like a hotel. It turns out the neighborhood's bicycle-riding residents, fueled by booze and tacos instead of gasoline haven't been good for business.

"A gas station has become a tough business, especially in this neighborhood," Mark Kupiec, a zoning attorney representing the owner of a Shell Station, told DNAinfo. "A lot of new people coming in do not have cars and the ones that do have cars, have smaller cars that are more efficient. There is not as much need."

George Nediyakalayil, the owner of a station at 1551 W. North Ave. just off the Kennedy Expressway, is instead proposing a 7-story, 99-room hotel. Transforming that property into a hotel, however, will require a zoning change, so he submitted an application with the City Council this week, Crain's reports. The matter will come before the city's building and zoning standards committee Aug. 27.

Nediyakalayil's proposal is right on trend in Chicago: hotel neighborhoods—that is, hotels outside of the Loop—are becoming more popular. Just this week, we covered a boomlet of hotels in Hyde Park, meant to serve prospective college kids, their visiting parents and patients seeking treatment at the University of Chicago's medical center. Hotel Lincoln in Lincoln Park has been pretty successful since 2012, Crain's notes. And Nediyakalayil will have some competition: Wicker Park developer Don Wilson has plans to convert the Northwest Tower at the intersection of Damen, Milwaukee and North avenues into a 67-room hotel set to open late next year.

Ald. Brian Hopkins thinks the neighborhood can handle two hotels, though he's scheduled a community meeting to discuss the proposal. He told Crain's that younger folks (at least he didn't say snake people) in neighborhoods like Wicker Park have a lot of friends who travel and want to visit.

"The community we're talking about here is a younger population," he said. "They're mobile, they travel and their friends travel. In the past we've seen projects like this downtown in the Loop or somewhere close to O'Hare, and that's starting to change."