Single-room-occupancy hotel in Uptown due for a makeover

Zoning change allows conversion of the Lorali into apartments and retail space.

SHARE Single-room-occupancy hotel in Uptown due for a makeover
The Lorali, 1039 W. Lawrence Ave., is one of two single-room occupancy hotels in Uptown facing major overhauls. | Google Streetview

The Lorali at 1039 W. Lawrence Ave.

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One of Uptown’s longtime single-room occupancy hotels will be converted to market-rate housing under a zoning proposal approved by the City Council Wednesday.

The council’s Zoning Committee on Tuesday had voted in favor of the ordinance, which allows the owner of the Lorali, 1039 W. Lawrence Ave., to renovate the property, which dates from the 1920s.

Under the plan, the eight-story Lorali would be converted from 161 SRO units into 80 apartments, with retail stores at the ground level.

Owner Jim Stoller said the building needs a gut rehabilitation and could not continue to house transient residents. But he said that under the city’s Affordable Housing Ordinance, he will set aside 10 percent of the new units at reduced rents and that some former residents may be able to come back.

Stoller said he’s offered the building to nonprofit owners, but none could make a deal. “The building is vacant. I spent more than $600,000 to help our residents find a good place to live. Everyone has been relocated,” he said.

An architect and property manager, Stoller said the city has praised his handling of the situation. “They’ve told us we are the poster child for doing everything correctly,” he said.

The building is within the 46th Ward of Ald. James Cappleman, a member of the Zoning Committee. He could not be reached for comment.

The city has lost many SRO units in recent years. A city ordinance adopted in 2014 helped residents needing to relocate by requiring owners to give them six months’ notice and a payment for moving.

Stoller called that ordinance a “misguided attempt to do a good thing” and said the city should instead focus on tax incentives to encourage construction of new housing for low-income users that can offer better amenities and on-site services.

He said he’s unsure about the cost of his renovation or when it would start, but that he hopes the refurbished units, which he’s calling Lawrence Lofts, will be ready by the end of 2021.

The Lorali used to operate as a hotel called the Viceroy and then was a nursing home, Stoller said.

His building is close to Lawrence House, another former SRO that has gone upscale with a renovation.

viceroy_hotel_1928__COVER.jpg

An image of the Lorali from 1928, when it was the Viceroy Hotel.

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