The closed Royal George Theater could become an 8-storey apartment building

LINCOLN PARK — The Royal George Theater building could be converted into apartments, but some neighbors are concerned about the height of the proposed structure.

Draper & Kramer developers want to bring an eight-story building with 133 units to the former site of the theater, 1649 N. Halsted St. Royal George closed in 2020 due to the pandemic.

The developers presented their plans for the building at a community meeting on Wednesday hosted by Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd).

“I want to stress that no decision has been made,” Hopkins said. “It’s part of an open process where we try to balance community interests and concerns with the need for our city to move forward, grow and promote economic development.”

If the plans are approved, Draper & Kramer will go ahead with construction of the 90-foot building with the goal of completion by spring 2024, said Gordon Ziegenhagen, the company’s senior vice president.

The building would include 12 studios, 25 “traditional” one-bedroom apartments, 68 loft-style one-bedroom apartments, 26 two-bedroom apartments and two three-bedroom apartments, Ziegenhagen said.

Since the site is 463 feet from the North/Clybourn CTA station, the building is considered a transit-oriented development, said Jeff Goulette, design director for SGW Architecture & Design, which is working on the project. As such, the building plans provide for 35 off-street parking spaces.

The building would also have 4,500 square feet of retail space on the ground floor, which is set back so businesses can have “generous opportunity for sidewalk cafe treatment,” Goulette said.

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The rear of the building has been designed to be more attractive to the neighbors who line it.

Kim Schilf, president and CEO of the Lincoln Park Chamber of Commerce, welcomed the proposal, saying it would bring more density to the commercial corridor along Halsted Street.

“The addition of the 133 new apartments … will provide much needed density to the corridor,” Schilf said. “It’s really important that we increase foot traffic and create a bigger pool of residents to spend money locally.”

The proposed restaurant on the ground floor with an outdoor dining area would “liven up the street” and add more eyes to the area, improving safety, Schilf said.

“From a business perspective and from a chamber perspective, we really believe this project will be of positive benefit to the community and will really help to maintain Halsted Street as a thriving commercial district,” said Schilf.

But some neighbors said the proposal was too big and would take over Halsted Street.

Anne Moore, chair of the Lincoln Central Association’s zoning committee, said the group had reviewed the proposal twice and was “very concerned about the height and density of this building”.

“It’s a small-scale neighborhood,” Moore said. “This building is too big.

Hopkins said his office will be in touch with neighbors as the proposal review process continues.

Jake Wittich is a Report for America corps member covering Lakeview, Lincoln Park and LGBTQ communities across the city for Block Club Chicago.

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