Chicago Alderman warns against using Big River North hotel to house more than 1,000 migrants

A downtown alderman warned voters that Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson plans to use a large hotel on the North River to house more than 1,000 immigrants, a plan the new mayor denies is in the works.

Alderman Brendan Reilly, of the 42nd District, said in an email to residents Monday that he has learned that Johnson is considering using the Chicago Downtown Hotel as a hotel for immigrants, saying he is “strongly opposed” to the plan. Reilly added that he “believes this decision will cause irreparable harm to the River North community.”

“There are no plans to convert the Chicago hotel… into a shelter for new arrivals,” a spokesperson for the city’s mayor said in a brief statement to CoStar News.

Riley’s message comes after more than 19,000 migrants have arrived in the nation’s third-largest city since the first buses sent by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott arrived in August 2022, according to the Chicago Tribune.

The crisis has left Johnson with a major logistical challenge just months into his first term, while Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker and other officials have also tried to rally to meet demand for expatriate housing — many of them from Venezuela — with winter weather fast approaching.

Large sanctuary cities like Chicago and New York are looking for ways to safely house the waves of arrivals, which has increased the burden on existing shelter systems and consumed tax dollars.

If the Chicago Downtown hotel is being considered for immigrant housing, the plan comes just a few months after Crain’s Chicago Business first reported that the owner of the 354-room hotel, retail space and connected parking within the Marina City complex was putting the property up for sale. sale.

It’s not clear where potential buyers for the hotel at 333 N. Dearborn St. showed up. The Bethesda, Maryland-based real estate investment trust that owns it, Pebblebrook Hotel Trust, did not immediately respond to a request for comment from CoStar News.

Reilly’s warning also comes just a few weeks after he and another alderman, Brian Hopkins of the 2nd Ward, publicly called on Johnson to close a shelter for 1,500 immigrants inside the Inn of Chicago at 162 E. Ohio St., not far away. From the Magnificent Mile shopping street and other tourist attractions.

They are urging the city not to renew the migrant housing contract with the city when it expires at the end of the year, saying the property has caused problems in the neighborhood since it opened as a migrant shelter. Earlier this month, local councilors said they had received hundreds of complaints about a range of criminal activity at the site.

Reilly urged voters to express their concerns about any plans being considered for the Marina City complex to city leaders, and provide contact information for the mayor’s office and other officials such as Deputy Mayor for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, Beatriz Ponce de Leon.

The hotel is located steps from the already problematic CTA Red Line station; Just blocks from Bally’s pop-up casino; “It is surrounded by residential buildings, hotels and other tourist destinations,” Reilly said in the email.

“Alderman Reilly believes that converting the Chicago Hotel into an immigrant hotel defies logic,” Reilly added.

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