Residents call for Near North luxury tower to close hotel, say it’s a ‘significant health risk’

Coronavirus

The COVID-19 pandemic has shut down almost everything in Chicago, with a few exceptions made for essential businesses such as grocery stores, gas stations and pharmacies.

Hotels are also allowed to stay open, but residents that share a luxury apartment tower with one on the Near North Side say guests have free run of the building, at times throwing raucous parties. 

Since last year, the owners of Old Town Park at 1140 N. Wells St. have been renting out apartments on a nightly or short-term basis using popular booking sites. They have a valid license from the city, so it is legal. 

Jeremy Dubin lives in the building, and says the parties have continued during the pandemic.

“I had to do a credit check, a background to live here and now you’re just letting any stranger in the building,” Dubin says. “Right now there’s 16 of us that are holding back 40 percent of our rent because the hotel is open right now.”

The city says it has fielded no complaints since the stay-at-home order went into effect last month. According to a city spokesman, hotels can operate despite the stay-at-home order as long as the rooms are used for lodging. Renting rooms for parties is not allowed, however.

Still, an attorney representing about 20 residents recently sent a letter to Old Town’s owner to ask them to stop renting hotel rooms, claiming it poses a “significant health risk.”

Old Town Park is owned by Onni Group, a Vancouver-based real estate firm. In a statement, a spokesman says Onni has followed, “all rules, orders, and regulations set out by the local and state government” during the pandemic.

The company plans to keep renting out rooms, though it has enacted restrictions such as a two-night minimum for designated suites, and maximum occupancy restrictions based on the size of each room.

“At Onni and Old Town Park we understand this is a difficult and stressful time, and the safety of our tenants during this pandemic is of the utmost importance,” the spokesman said. “We are taking the required and necessary precautions and efforts here and across all of our properties in North America to ensure their health during this unprecedented time.”

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