Detailed plans presented for proposed Uptown hotel

Traffic, height concerns still on CARAG, East Calhoun minds

East Calhoun and CARAG residents packed a reception room at St. Mary’s Greek Orthodox Church, 3450 Irving Ave. S., Aug. 3 to view plans and ask questions about a proposed hotel in Uptown.

Investor Curt Gunsbury, who publicly presented plans at an East Calhoun Community Organization (ECCO) meeting in May for a boutique hotel to be built at 3017-3029 Holmes Ave. S., returned to the group this month with other investors, architects and more detailed plans.

The large audience of more than 100 people had plenty of questions and mixed opinions about the project.

Gunsbury presented two plans for the hotel, named Hotel Uptown. His preferred option was a 63-foot, six-story, 100-room building with 95 valet parking stalls or 64 self-parking stalls. The hotel would require a conditional-use permit for height and multiple variances.

The second option presented was a 56-foot, four-story, 60-room hotel with 25 valet parking stalls or 20 self-parking spots. No variances would be required for this option, but Gunsbury and his team said it’s not favorable, largely because revenue from the smaller number of rooms would not be enough to finance underground parking. “Cars would spill out into the street,” Gunsbury said.

Room rates in either design would be in the mid-$100s, he said. The total cost of building the project would range from $15 million-20 million.

The proposed project’s height, which dominated discussion at the May meeting, was brought up as a concern Aug. 3, but traffic seemed to be a hot button, too.

“Where in the hell is all the traffic gonna go?” asked Holmes Avenue resident Phyllis Roden, who caused the room to break out in applause. “How are all these cars going to get to your hotel? The neighborhood is already congested.”

Gunsbury said a good portion of hotel patrons would likely get to the hotel via friends, a taxi or other public transportation. He expects the hotel to host about 80 cars a day. An off-street valet section would be available to reduce congestion in front of the hotel, he said.

CARAG resident Mindy Levine wanted to know how the hotel would help build community.

Project investor Mariana Quiroga said the hotel would create a place for visiting friends and family of Uptown residents to stay.

ECCO Board member Tim Prinsen agreed and said it’s only a matter of time before a hotel of some sort comes to Uptown, and an independently owned boutique hotel in the community would be better than a large chain.

Gunsbury has pushed that point. “We’re not looking to be a Sheraton, we’re not looking to be an Econo Lodge,” he said. “We’re looking to be an extension of what’s already here.”

How the hotel would affect the character of Uptown and whether variances should be allowed at all were also discussed at the meeting.

City Councilmember Ralph Remington (10th Ward) attended the meeting and said he had not made up his mind about the hotel, but he warned residents that the 56-foot version could be built without community support.

Gunsbury asked for a show of hands to help determine whether meeting attendees favored the larger or smaller option. Noticeably more hands went up in favor of the larger building, though several residents clearly did not want the project at all.

Gunsbury wants to start building in April 2007 and complete the hotel within 11 months. The project still needs to go through the city approval process.

– Jake Weyer can be reached at 436-4367 and [email protected]