Community Activists: Study Hotel May Further Gentrification South of Midway

Study Hotels expects the project to create 300 new jobs. However, community organizations worry that few of the jobs will be allocated to local residents.

By Caleb Sussman, Contributor

In May of last year, the University of Chicago partnered with Study Hotels to build a 180-room hotel, The Study at the University of Chicago, to complement the upcoming Rubenstein Forum as part of the University’s continued expansion south of the Midway. However, many community activists expressed concerns at a recent community panel that the hotel will only serve to gentrify the Woodlawn community area; many Woodlawn residents are also skeptical of the project, which is another example of the University expanding its scope further south of the Midway.

The hotel will rise 15 stories above the Midway at 1225 East 60th Street, between Kimbark and Woodlawn Avenues, and is set to include a fitness center, restaurant and bar, and winter garden. The Study will also be one of the few buildings on campus devoted entirely to a for-profit business. Like the upcoming Woodlawn Residential Commons, the hotel will be privately developed and managed. However, the University has ensured that it will include amenities that will serve the University as well as the community at large, according to University Spokesperson Calmetta Coleman in a press release. 

Study Hotels expects the project to create 300 new jobs, and has agreed to follow the University’s policy on minority and female-owned businesses, as well as to pay all employees a living wage. Nonetheless, community organizations worry that not many of the jobs to come out of the hotel will be allocated to members of the Woodlawn community. Speaking to the Hyde Park Herald during the event, aldermanic candidate Jeanette Taylor expressed concerns that The Study hotel would not field the majority of their jobs from Woodlawn. Willie Cochran, the sitting alderman, disagreed, saying that he was certain that the project would make an effort to support as many local communities as possible.

The hotel will be two blocks west of the Obama Presidential Center and across the street from the planned Rubenstein Forum and Woodlawn Residential Commons, all set to open in 2020. With its increased focus on expanding north and south of campus, the University has been partnering with developers to build several lodging options around Hyde Park, including the Sophy Hotel, which opened earlier this month.

Study Hotels focuses on creating hotels that cater specifically to Universities. The 10-year-old brand has two other hotels: The Study at University City in Philadelphia, which serves the University of Pennsylvania Community, and The Study at Yale in New Haven. “We’re very selective with the locations we choose, and this was an ideal location for us to come in and do what we do best,” Study Hotels founder Paul McGowan said at last week’s community panel. “Our goal is to be here for the next 35, 40 years.”