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Chicago’s Hotel SceneMay 7, 2012 By: Ruthanne Terrero Travel Agent
|Vice President—Content/Editorial Director, Ruthanne Terrero|
I recently returned from a whirlwind trip to Chicago where, in between business meetings, I was able to visit six hotels. It was well worth the effort, since there’s a lot happening in the Windy City to recommend to your clients.
The first stop was at The Langham, Chicago, which is very much in the early stages of development, being carved out of the landmark IBM building designed by architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe at 330 North Wabash on Chicago’s Riverfront. It was a thrill to walk through the construction site with the director of sales and marketing, Joe Aguilera, who most recently hailed from the Elysian Hotel in Chicago, which turned into Waldorf Astoria last year when it was purchased by Sam Zell. (The Elysian’s former GM, Kevin Robinson, was just named GM of The Langham Chicago at presstime.)
There are floor-to-ceiling windows throughout, which will make for a stunning reception area on the second floor. The welcoming vista will be of the Chicago River and its cantilever bridges that go up when tall boats sail under, and Lake Michigan beyond. Upstairs, the rooms are currently being framed out from floor to floor; there’s a great construction buzz at the site, which promises to bring 300 new jobs to Chicago when it opens late spring of next year.
Next stop was the Swissôtel Chicago, which wrapped up a $10 million renovation of its lobby and meeting space late last year. The once very dark public area is now very open and lively. The bar area, when we were there, was humming with business people meeting for a quick drink and transient guests at workspaces with the Wi-Fi. Meeting spaces are very green here.
Then it was on to the Park Hyatt, which last year revamped its seventh floor, switching out the concept of its NoMI restaurant to make it less formal, and adding other “lifestyle” components that include a spa, a garden (think evening cocktails) and a lounge, where locals are also encouraged to come in and spend the day. Nice Touch: NoMI has just launched a blog for locals at comethinkin.com.
Trump International reports that its popular outdoor terrace will reopen for the season with a SoCal theme, complete with palm trees. It’s also just ordered two super luxury Audi 88Ls to be used as house cars; they’ll have pull-down writing desks, flat-screen TVs and iPad technology that will let guests order room service so that it’s waiting for them when they arrive at the hotel. Additionally, Anthony Cristiano is about to open his first hair salon outside of Los Angeles at the hotel. It will be huge, with 24 chairs, facing the riverwalk. Cristiano’s haircuts start at $600, but his assistants charge much less.
The last stop was the Public Chicago, Ian Schrager’s new hotel brand. It is a complete transformation of the historic Ambassador East in the city’s posh Gold Coast neighborhood. Like all of Schrager’s projects, the public areas are where the activity is at its highest. Upscale locals come in to use the lobby’s sitting and coffee bar areas for the free Wi-Fi, giving off a vibe that you’re really staying in a cool neighborhood. At night, of course, it all transforms into a hip venue for cocktails. Rooms are painted a pristine white with original moldings in place. Bathrooms are the original small size but tiles and fixtures are new so it all feels very fresh.
There’s much more going on, including the opening of the Radisson Blu Aqua and a new SoHo House set to open—and that’s the least of it, I’m sure. I would consider recommending Chicago to your clients for a city getaway, not just for its hotels but also for its wonderful shopping and cultural attractions.