Controversy over De Niro`s plans for new hotel - KMSP-TV

Controversy over De Niro`s plans for new hotel in Meatpacking District

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Google is moving hundreds of workers to the West Loop and Purdue University is putting a new technology and business program there. Now, actor Robert De Niro wants to build a new luxury hotel and restaurant in the Near West Side, Randolph-Fulton Market.

It's changing fast, but Thursday's City Hall's Commission on Chicago Landmarks voted unanimously to protect 75 historic buildings in the neighborhood and preserve thousands of blue-collar jobs.

He may never dip his hands into it Hollywood-style, but if Robert De Niro has his way, tons of cement and other construction materials will transform a now-vacant lot. De Niro has proposed a 155-room hotel, perhaps a dozen stories high, with a restaurant and rooftop lounge. The movie star's co-investors told the local alderman DeNiro's willing to deliver to pitch the project personally.

"And they told me Robert DeNiro's even willing to come to a community meeting, if need be," 24th Ward Alderman Walter Burnett explains.

Some who live and work nearby have already made up their minds.

"I don't support that idea," Bryan Gonzalez says. "I think it's gonna give a more glamorized look. And I feel this has a more working-class look."

The proposed site of De Niro's Nobu Hotel adjoins a 24-hour a day sausage factory with 170 workers in three shifts. Some fear glitzy new developments will eventually squeeze out many of the 500 manufacturing companies in the surrounding Kinzie Industrial Corridor. They employ about 10,000 blue collar workers.

"We have many sites throughout the city that would allow this hotel immediately," RFMA's Executive Director Roger Romanelli says. "Why this particular site? Help us understand, Mr. De Niro. Walk us through it. We'll be happy to talk to you."

In a press release from Robert De Niro and his partners announcing they'd like to open the new complex in 2016, they quoted Mayor Emanuel offering warm praise. He said it would "further cement Chicago's role as a world-class city." The only disagreement is over where it should go. Because it requires new zoning, it's several months away from final approval.

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