Long stuck on a COVID-19 back burner, plans to convert a Lake Street retail and office building into a Holiday Inn Express are moving forward with a village-issued OK to begin internal demolition. The exact scale of the proposed project may still be in flux, however.

Downtown Oak Park’s Holiday Inn Express spent a lot of time simmering on that back burner, but the project is beginning to move forward. The Village of Oak Park has issued the internal demolition permit necessary to repurpose 1140 Lake St. from a retail and office building into a limited-service hotel. That work has not quite started.

“The client is choosing his contractor to do the demo. Once he finalizes that, the demo will start, so it’s pretty soon though,” said project architect Jolly Thulaseedas of KP+J Architects and Engineers.

The building’s owners, brothers Azeem and Salim Hemani, won village board approval back in November 2019 to convert their downtown Oak Park property into the village’s first Holiday Inn Express location. The pandemic hit a few months later, however, which delayed plans, causing the board’s approval to lapse.

The brothers returned to the village board last January with a new version of the project, scaled down to 68 hotel rooms and only one added floor. The original plan called for 97 hotel rooms and the addition of three more floors to the existing 5-story structure. The village board granted the Hemani brothers an extension on the hotel.

It’s possible the plans could undergo even more shrinkage. Thulaseedas told Wednesday Journal the Hemani brothers are considering the necessity of adding another floor.

“[They’re] rethinking whether that sixth floor really needs to be there or not,” he said.

Although this hotel has been in the works for almost four years, Thulaseedas only joined as project architect this past June. The previously engaged project architect dropped out due to health issues, according to Thulaseedas.

Thulaseedas has submitted a building permit, the next permit necessary to proceed. Dan Yopchick, spokesperson for the Village of Oak Park, confirmed the permit application is currently under village review.

Thulaseedas did not have an anticipated opening date for the Holiday Inn Express as his client wishes to base the construction schedule on the permit, which has not been obtained yet.

“I don’t know if the client has a schedule in mind,” he said.

Once the building permit receives approval, Thulaseedas hopes the rest of the project will move forward smoothly.

“Crossing my fingers,” he said.

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