Chicago is a city on the verge. New life has been given to many of the city’s historic buildings in recent years—from Virgin Hotel’s take over of the Old Dearborn Bank Building to the Chicago Motor Club Building’s metamorphosis as a new Hampton Inn. New development just outside McCormick Place, including the DePaul Arena and Motor Row Marriott Marquis, is destined to have a domino effect on growth, sparking new restaurants and shops to set up camp in the Motor Row district while nudging non-conventioneers out of the McCormick Place bubble. Within this spirit, a lot of hotels are ramping up appearances and personality to do their part in jumpstarting a more vibrant, yet true-to-locale, Chicago. Here are five revamps sure to do just that.
Shortly after updating 162 of its Grand Tower and Presidential Suite rooms in 2013 and 2014, the hotel is back in the news with another upgrade full of 1920s swank—this time to the 315 guest rooms and corridors of its Historic Tower. The new Executive Tower’s overall design draws from the hotel’s roots as the Shriner’s Organization’s luxury Medinah Men’s Athletic Club. Whites and deep greys complement jeweltone color pops in rooms featuring domes, lancet and ogee arches and other characteristically Moorish architecture. Little known fact: The renovation actually stems from a complete restoration of the property—largely guided by the athletic club’s 1930 yearbook, the SCIMITAR—, which closed its doors in the ’30s following the stock market crash.
Nearly 6,500 sf of new event space are debuting this month at the luxury Five Diamond hotel; fannning out into the Riverside Gallery, Riverside Room and Bridgeview Room. All will be housed alongside available retail space, some of which open directly onto the picturesque riverwalk. Each room is designed to showcase unique vantage points found in the 92-story hotel, including views of the Chicago River, Lake Michigan and the city’s famed bridges and architectural gems. Elongated space with framed, 4×9 mirrors that reflect the sunshine, water and shimmering city lights anchor the Riverside Gallery. The art deco glamour of the 1930s characterizes the Riverside Room, positioned on Trump Chicago’s famed River Walk, with available outdoor access. As the largest of the three spaces, the Bridgeview Room, was aptly named for its unsurpassable views of Chicago’s famed bridges and alluring “floating” affect atop the Chicago River. Three elaborate crystal chandeliers and other bold design elements such as a modern, 50’ multi-dimensional wrap-around panel. The entry also includes a private coat check, which can also serve as an additional bar.
After being hit hard by the 2008 recession and a formidable Ponzi scheme shortly after, the Drake is back in business. The 160-room hotel, built originally as counterpart to the famous Chicago Drake Hotel on Michigan Avenue, was returned to its 1960s glory following a meticulous restoration project. The hotel has retained all original woodwork, with certain signature elements, such as the Breakfast Room mural, reminiscent of the scenic White House mural commissioned by Jackie Kennedy, still in tact. The lobby includes a tribute to Oak Brook in the form of a massive, gold-leafed table and Swarovski Crystal chandelier with an 11-inch crown molding of oak leaves. A new Terrace Room with a massive illuminated 1,000-flower-pieced artwork overhead, decorative fountain and dining area, will give groups a fresh place to meet just outside of the Three Oaks Rooms—view of the three massive oak trees that line York Road still in view. As the area is zoned for green space by the Village of Oak Brook, this view will never change. New outdoor courtyard areas with fire pits, fountains and a gazebo are also on the agenda. Little known fact: The artist whose artistic flair permeates the property also created many of pieces for Pope John Paul II.
A modern “Great Gatsby” vibe is about to roll out in the heart of Chicago’s downtown theatre district mid-May. Renovated rooms and a new lobby with enhanced features will have a modern art deco vibe, full of 1920s pageantry. The new lobby will feature a new bar, with crafted cocktails and bites on the agenda. Overall, the revamp will serve to position the hotel as a “destination, intermission and after-party” for “unabashed lavishness” and “extravagantly modern social exchanges,” sure to complement the hotel’s already booming wine hour.
Just a short trot from Millennium Park, Wrigley Field and Magnificient Mile, the 27-story Renaissance Chicago Downtown is getting a makeover. Guest rooms will be modernized with new furnishings, fixtures and finishes. An open and airy urban concept lobby, with relaxed lounge seating, reception pods and indoor and outdoor dining is also in the works. A new ballroom will take over the 3rd floor, with riverfront views, and a rooftop terrace that includes a destination bar, seating and dining areas.