Carol Stutz created the images above. The first picture (left) shows a neighbor’s home adjacent to the proposed hotel site as it appears now; the other one (right) shows what it would look like with the hotel. (The hotel in Stutz’s second image is Photoshopped from a picture of another Residence Inn, in Mettawa, that is one story shorter than the building proposed for Wilmette.)
Lockerbie Lane is a residential cul-de-sac west of the Edens Expressway in Wilmette. In July, an Indiana hotel operator announced plans to build a 130-room Residence Inn by Marriott on a vacant parcel of land in a nearby commercial area, next to an existing three-story building. “It just changes everything about our neighborhood,” laments Carol Stutz, a 20-year Lockerbie Lane resident. “It’s not what is best for our quality of life and property values.”
Matt Frankiewicz, the senior director of development for White Lodging, counters that his company has made multiple changes to its plan in order to accommodate residents. They include:
• pushing the hotel east on its site, away from the homes;
• moving the planned Dumpster site away from some Lockerbie homes’ lot lines;
• creating a drainage plan for the site that should prevent all storm water from flowing onto the Lockerbie lots; and
• drafting a landscape plan that preserves mature trees and adds new ones to establish a visual buffer between the hotel and the neighborhood. “We’re even extending the landscape plan beyond the [limits] of our site, to the building next door,” Frankiewicz says.
Chris Canning, the Wilmette village president, says that the developers early on repositioned the hotel at his suggestion, so that the majority of the building’s windows would look out onto other commercial property, not onto residential lots.
“All of that is trivial,” says Larry Rogers, who has lived on Lockerbie since 1961. He has concerns about zoning issues (detailed here), but adds, “we don’t want a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week hotel in our backyard.”
Lockerbie already has commercial buildings as neighbors, including National Louis University’s Skokie facility (which is taller than the proposed hotel) and an adjacent parking garage. Stutz and Rogers emphasize that the commuter college isn’t used around the clock; Stutz says that she would prefer to see a medical, office, or bank building on the vacant site.
Canning points out that virtually all cars headed for the Residence Inn would come and go from the other side of the site, never approaching Lockerbie because the street is removed from main traffic routes. He also argues that the hotel would help plug the sales-tax hole left by the recent closings of the town’s Crate & Barrel and Borders Bookstore, in effect keeping the pressure off property taxes.
Wilmette’s plan commission and village board have voted in favor of preliminary plans for the hotel, and last Friday, White Lodging submitted some revisions that were designed to placate residents’ concerns. On February 7, the project goes back to the plan commission for another vote. Some residents have voiced concerns that the project is being hurried through.
Rogers, for one, doesn’t think the fight is over. “Nothing is resolved,” he says. “We’ll defeat them in court.”