East Lakeview’s Boystown neighborhood is not the underground refuge that it once was. Still a safe space for the LGBTQ community, to be sure, Boystown is coming into its own as a full-service neighborhood, with senior housing, community centers, and 24/7 amenities drawing new development.
A new hotel designed by Koo and Associates looks to fill a missing niche in the rapidly evolving strip of North Halsted Street without eclipsing its energy. In fact, THE OUT CHICAGO, a 112-room boutique hotel, will tie directly into two mainstays of Northalsted’s nightlife: Sidetrack and Minibar Ultra Lounge & Café.
In keeping with the brand of its New York counterpart, which was billed as the world’s first “straight-friendly” urban resort, THE OUT CHICAGO will feature a 3,000-square-foot atrium with a waterfall feature, hot tubs and multipurpose common space for use year-round.
“After the Center on Halsted I think people are more open to a contemporary design aesthetic in the neighborhood,” said Koo and Associates founder Jackie Koo. The building’s massing mimics the stacking of suitcases, but the project is still in concept design phase. Nine stories front onto Halsted Street, but Koo said the project is aiming for a 10th floor. That is large for the surrounding area, but she points out that low floor-to-floor heights keep the 84-foot building within the realm of reason—a nearby residential tower reaches roughly 70 feet.
With the neighborhood’s vibrant nightlife, however, the building’s ground floor may be more to the point. In addition to direct connections to its neighboring nightclubs, THE OUT’s lobby will feature its own restaurant and bar, feeling more like a living room than a check-in counter that might interrupt the retail strip it inhabits. Minibar may even operate the hotel bar, and the developer has an agreement with Sidetrack to share air rights.
“My vision for it is that it really ends up being a community space,” said Koo. “Hotels these days function as so much more than someplace where out of town guests go.”
Unlike its New York location, THE OUT will be new construction—it takes the place of a low rise currently home to a Chinese restaurant. A good hotel option is sorely lacking in the area, Koo said, and her hope is to deliver something that looks ahead to where the neighborhood is going.