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Make a reservation for Boystown hotel

OPINION

(RedEye file photo )
May 15, 2013|By Jason Steele, @CBQSteele | For RedEye

Boystown is on the cusp of a renaissance.

Progress Bar is taking over the old Cocktail spot. Replay, an arcade bar, is moving into the former Buck's Saloon. Circuit has reopened. Heck, even The Lucky Horseshoe Lounge has brought in a gaggle of new go-go boys. Or so I've heard. And by "heard" I mean "seen," and by "seen" I mean "stuffed several singles into bulging G-strings last Saturday night."

Yet arguably the biggest development—both figuratively and literally—is not one of the famous bars. It is the proposed 10-story Out Chicago hotel in the 3300 block of North Halsted Street. You know, next to Sidetrack. Billing itself as a "straight-friendly urban resort," Out would position itself as the epicenter of Boystown. (The concept is modeled after Out NYC in New York, which opened in March 2012.)

This would be a great addition to the area and, like the Center on Halsted, help solidify Boystown as the premier Midwest LGBT destination. But not everyone feels that way. Opponents have raised a number of concerns, among them that a hotel would invite increased crime, congestion and public drunkenness.

Sure, I'll admit constructing a large hotel in the center of Boystown would increase foot traffic and possibly street traffic, but would it really be any worse than the Center on Halsted/Whole Foods complex a couple of blocks north? Or Briar Street Theatre, home of the Blue Man Group, a couple of blocks to the south?

Both are popular destinations for locals and tourists, respectively, and aside from the occasional tour bus offloading squawking suburban high schoolers in front of Briar Street Theater and double-wide SUV strollers clogging the organic, non-GMO, gluten-free sidewalks by Whole Foods, there really isn't an issue with either.

I just don't see increased traffic as a valid reason to block a development that would provide jobs to Chicago and bring money in to the local businesses.

Which brings us to crime. Equating hotels with trouble is a stretch. If that were true, then the Mag Mile, home to more than 50 hotels, motels and inns in the general vicinity, would be overrun with criminals. Instead it's one of the safest and most well-regarded areas of the city. And let's not forget: A hotel already exists at Broadway and Hawthorne Place, and you don't see hordes of tourists peeing and puking on the front lawn.

Some people have voiced concerns over the size of the proposed hotel. Would it be larger than most buildings in the immediate vicinity? Yes, but it is not the largest development on the Boystown strip. Just north of the Center on Halsted, construction is underway on Halsted Flats, a 15-story business and residential building that would dwarf Out Chicago hotel.

As a Boystown resident, my sense is that most people are excited about the prospect of bringing more tourism to the area, having people spend their money locally and adding a positive new element to the neighborhood.

And if the critics don't see it that way, at least they'll see some new faces on Grindr.

Jason Steele is a RedEye special contributor.

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