Mapping lost housing: Lakeview's disappearing SRO hotels

Mapping lost housing: Lakeview's disappearing SRO hotels
The Abbott Hotel on Belmont Ave in Lakeview is one of two remaining SRO buildings in the neighborhood, but it's been bought by a real estate mogul who will likely turn it into luxury rentals. Photo by Megan Cottrell.

I recently got word from Bob Zuley, a reporter and affordable housing advocate in Lakeview, that another single room occupancy hotel was closing--the Abbott-- leaving  its 37 residents scrambling to find housing before the year is done.

I interviewed Zuley a few weeks back about his years of reporting on these single room occupancy hotels, or SROs. They're old-school residential housing that allows people to rent a single furnished room by the day, week or month. Although a lot of neighborhood residents don't like them, SROs provide affordable housing for people who work as cab drivers or store clerks and often operate as the housing of last resort for people on the margins.

Anyway, back to the Abbott. The building was bought in August by BJB Properties, owned by Chicago real estate mogul Jamie Purcell. He has bought a handful of Lakeview SROs--the Ambers, the Bel-Air, and Sheffield House-- and is in the process of converting them to upscale rental housing. The BJB property website advertises shiny units with granite countertops and stainless steel appliances, much nicer than it used to be, but no longer marketed to the buildings' former clientele. Purcell didn't my return calls seeking comment.

The Abbott is still open, temporarily. Bob says residents told him that rent was jacked up $10 a day a few months back, making it much harder for poor people to afford to stay. The remaining 37 residents have been told they'll need to find a new place to live by the end of the year, when the building will be closed for renovations.

When I sat down with Bob, he had loads of information on Lakeview's dwindling SROs. I compiled it into this Google map, complete with pictures of the buildings, information on its current status and links to stories about the building. Take a look:

View Disappearing Lakeview SROs in a larger map

I'm working on some more data and maps of SROs citywide, plus more about the Chateau, the one remaining Lakeview SRO that hasn't been sold or closed. Stay tuned.

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  • Isn't the renovated Bel-Ray at Belmont and Racine still an SRO?

  • Hey there - Thanks for reading and great question. I have to do some more digging, but yes, the Bel-Ray is technically licensed as an SRO. However, it looks from a quick google search that it's "supportive housing for homeless adults," which usually means that people are in a program, not just coming and going as they please. One of the benefits of SROs is that they are just private housing, so people don't necessarily have to meet certain qualifications. For example, the Diplomat, one of the places on the map, is going to be turned into a housing center for mentally ill adults. It may be technically licensed as an SRO (we shall see...) but you have to meet certain criteria to be in the program - i.e. being severely mentally ill. You couldn't just walk in off the street and say, "Hey, do you have a room I could rent?" etc. But like I said, let me do some more digging to find out, and great question! Thanks so much for reading.

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