LINCOLN PARK — The Royal George Theater will be redeveloped into a nine-story residential building after the City Council approved the plan Thursday.

Developers Draper & Kramer plan to demolish the shuttered theater at 1641 N. Halsted St. A nine-story residential building with ground floor retail will be built in its place. The Royal George Theater was a staple of Chicago’s theater scene, but never reopened after closing due to the pandemic in 2020.

I give birth. Brian Hopkins (II) previously said he “fully supports” the project, as did business leaders from the Lincoln Park Chamber of Commerce and the Steppenwolf Theater, which is located across the street. Steppenwolf will partner with developers to lease 15 percent of the affordable apartments to visiting artists.

Neighbors strongly opposed the development, saying the new building would tower over neighbors in the nearby HOB neighborhood, named after Howard, Orchard and Burling streets.

“We are extremely concerned about the neighbors to the east of this project,” leaders of the Ranch Triangle and Lincoln Central neighborhood associations wrote in a joint letter. “This project looms large for them and their voices have been silenced with the proposed negotiated deal.”

Draper & Kramer first pitched the project to Hopkins in June 2021 as a 192-unit apartment building. The plans have since been scaled back at Hopkins’ request, attorney Rich Klawiter said during the August Plan Commission meeting.

The plans approved on Thursday allow for the construction of 131 apartments, and the size of the upper floors has been reduced with setbacks on the top two floors.

Other changes include improving the building’s facade with more brick at ground level along with vertical terra cotta accents, Klawiter said.

credit: available
Previous view of the Royal George Theater development.

The alderman previously said part of Hopkins’ support for the project hinged on the developers’ promise to contribute $300,000 toward building new parks at the southwest corner of Larrabee Street and North Avenue.

The park space, which was previously part of the Ogden Street right-of-way, will increase the size of 598 Park ahead of the Chicago Park District’s planned renovation of the area, Hopkins said.

“The project will connect the entire park to the greater neighborhood by placing it under the CTA tracks and all the way north to North Avenue,” Hopkins wrote to his constituents before the August meeting.

Developers shared during a community meeting in June 2022 that the building will contain a mix of studios and “traditional” one-bedroom, one-two-bedroom, two-bedroom and three-bedroom loft-style apartments.

Because the site is located 463 feet from the North/Clybourn CTA station, the building qualifies as a transit-oriented development, the developers said last year. As such, plans for the building include 35 off-street parking spaces.

Residents will be prohibited from obtaining on-street parking permits, Hopkins said.

A neighbor who lives in the Ranch Triangle near the proposed development said during an August Plan Commission meeting that she opposes the project because it is not compatible with neighboring buildings.

“The building will be more than double the height of the buildings behind it in Burling,” she said. “One claim is that there is a ‘precedent’ for this development, but one of my concerns is that the next developer will claim a precedent for another massive building.”

Brooke Flanagan, Steppenwolf’s executive director, said she felt the design of the proposed building would complement the “artistic” architecture of the theatre, which debuted a new theater and education building in 2021.

The project “will increase our neighborhood’s vitality indicators, raise the community profile and density of our cultural corridor, and increase patronage at the many restaurants that call Halsted Street home,” she said.

Kim Shelf, president and CEO of the Lincoln Park Chamber of Commerce, said the apartment building will have a positive impact on local businesses.

“It will provide much-needed density to the corridor, increasing foot traffic and creating a larger pool of residents to spend dollars locally,” Shelf said.

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