Chicago’s beloved Old Dearborn Bank Building got a second wind this past year when Virgin Hotels began converting the national landmark building into its first hotel. The super-slim building, doused ornately with massive birds, lions, griffins, dragons and other animals on its brick exterior, will retain much of its original 1920s grandeur, while giving business travelers plenty of edgy, modern marvels and local treats. Prepare for ‘funktional’ meetings, a zany concept that plays out in Ping-Pong meeting tables, fitness video games, mini golf in the hallways, life-sized Jenga, and other ideas that shake the ‘bored’ out of boardroom.
The hotel features three meeting rooms, the largest with seating for 108, along with other social spaces where groups can meet, such as the Commons Club, a hybrid bar, lounge, study, restaurant all broken up into distinct spaces. Two Zero Three revs up Chicago’s newsy side with newsstand-inspired coffee and wine bar. A rooftop bar and spa will open later on in 2015. But the main attraction of the property is its value proposition.
The hotel promises to cater to the functional needs of modern business travelers—from double chamber guest rooms and multi-functional lounge beds to ‘street level’ mini bar prices. A buck or two for a bottle of water from the hotel mini bar? Virgin says expect it. Also expect to save on WiFi, room service delivery, early check-in, late check-out fees.
Like many boutique lifestyle brands, expounding on the concept of destination and guest-directed experiences are the focus. Touch points of this philosophy can be found throughout the hotel, from the integration of local designers and chefs to a pre-arrival questionnaire called ‘The Know’ that ensures everything from favorite goodies, pillows, activities, music and cocktails are on hand at arrival. “Lucy,” the female persona of the hotels app, handles everything from room service, room temperature, movies and music, chats with other guests and out and about recommendations. Local designers and chefs are also part of the mix. Eventually, The Know will function across Virgin hotels—a similar approach was recently hammered out between Virgin America and Virgin Hotels, rewarding Virgin America’s Elevate members with 1,000 points per stay at Virgin Hotels, among other things. Virgin’s new cruise line will continue this synergy. Along with Virgin Hotel Chicago, set to open mid-month, Nashville and New York properties are in the works, opening in 2016 and 2017, respectively.