Travelers from Timbuktu or Tokyo might soon walk the block of 100 N. Kenilworth, where a nine-bed hostel could open by fall.

Noelle Sutherland, who plans to convert 115 N. Kenilworth Ave. into the Row House Hostel, said she thinks “it’s really important to our world right now to come together and find out that we’re the same.”

But before Sutherland can make the hostel a reality, she must apply for a zoning amendment. The B3 (Business) district the row house is in allows hotels and bed-and-breakfasts as special uses, but doesn’t specifically mention hostels. She is planning to apply within the next two weeks for hostels to be added.

After that, said Mike Bruce, zoning administrator in Oak Park’s Building and Property Standards Department, her application could go to either the Plan Commission or the Zoning Board of Appeals, which would make a recommendation before passing it on to the village board. All in all, the process usually takes about four months, he said.

Along the way, Sutherland might run into opposition from neighbors. She heard some concerns about her hostel in two open houses she gave for neighbors. “People are nervous because when you say the word ‘hostel,’ you say the word ‘transient,'” she said.

She is taking a number of steps to address that concern. The maximum stay would be either two or three weeks, and travelers would be required to produce an ID to confirm they live outside of the area. In addition, Sutherland said the building is solid brick, so there would not be problems with noise. She added that there are only nine beds, so there would not be too many people on the street.

Far from being nervous, some neighbors are enthusiastic about the potential development. “This is an idea that should have been done a long time ago, and what better place to do it?” said Donald Jurkowski of 109 N. Kenilworth, one house from the proposed hostel.

Kenilworth, he said, is known as a gateway to Downtown Oak Park, and the area could become a “little Europe” with the hostel, downtown shops, and Unity Temple.

Sutherland saw a similar need in the community. In a letter to neighbors, she wrote that “after much research we have found there is a lack of affordable housing available for many people including the student architects, medical interns, and many young adults that are interested in the countless things that Oak Park has to offer.”

Hostels, she added, are a “great place for people to meet each other, and for cultures to meld.”

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