After payouts, developer Jim Stoller plans Uptown SRO conversion

The plan would turn 161 SRO units into 80 apartments

Building Group President and CEO Jim Stoller and the Lorali Hotel at 1039 W. Lawrence Avenue
Building Group President and CEO Jim Stoller and the Lorali Hotel at 1039 W. Lawrence Avenue

Developer Jim Stoller is moving forward with a plan to convert the single-room occupancy Lorali Hotel in Uptown to a mixed-use apartment building.

The City Council’s Committee on Zoning, Landmarks, and Building Standards is set to review the proposed conversion on October 15.

The application was filed through an entity called Lawrence Lofts, LLC, which shares an address with Stoller’s firm, Building Group. The application is to convert the 161-unit SRO at 1039 W. Lawrence Avenue over to an 80-unit apartment building, according to an agenda for the meeting. Ground-floor retail is also part of the proposal.

A rehab of the century-old building has been in the cards for several months. In February, affordable housing advocates with a group called ONE Northside demonstrated in front of the building, asking the city to help relocate tenants that fear they’ll become homeless if moved out of the building for a rehab.

Myk Snider, a spokesperson for Building Group, said that the building has been vacant for several months and that the firm brought in a social services organization to help tenants find new housing and prepare paperwork for a move.

Snider said that an unspecified number of the planned units will be reserved for low- and moderate-income renters and that some of the former tenants were identified through a lottery to take some of those units. All tenants received a payment from Building Group when they vacated, he said.

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Many tenants in SRO units — mostly barebones hotel-style rooms rented out on a monthly basis — are on fixed incomes. A February news report on the situation from the local news organization Block Club Chicago said that was the case for many residents of the Lorali Hotel and that many were elderly.

At the time, Snider said the building was in urgent need of repairs.

“All of the core systems including HVAC, windows and plumbing are original to the building, which is nearly 100 years old,” he said.

The city passed its SRO Preservation Ordinance in 2014 that requires owners of SRO properties to spend at least six months seeking out an affordable housing developer to buy their properties before any other buyer. The ordinance followed conversions of several SRO properties to market-rate apartment buildings.

Affordable developer NHP Foundation credited the program for its 2016 acquisition of the 152-unit Mark Twain Hotel. In December, the developer secured $27.3 million in debt from Bellwether Enterprise to rehab the building.

Housing advocates continue to push the city to put more resources towards preserving SROs and some have called on the government to invest $500 million to preserve SRO properties, including $25 million over the next two decades to help affordable housing developers to buy them, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.