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Ian Schrager Gives HotelChatter The Lowdown On His New 'Sexy Property'

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  Site Where: 1301 North State Parkway [map], Chicago, IL, United States, 60610
April 6, 2010 at 3:51 PM | by | ()


He's baaack! Ian Schrager officially announced his plans yesterday to take over the Ambassador East Hotel in Chicago's Gold Coast neighborhood, making this Schrager's first active hotel project since Gramercy Park Hotel and also his first foray into Chi-town.

If you thought the tween girls that line up outside Justin Bieber's mall appearances were bad, you should have seen us after we learned that Ian Schrager wanted to talk to HotelChatter about this new project of his. Yes, we scored some telephone time with Ian Schrager yesterday. But don't worry, we kept it clean.

Our first question for the original hot hotelier was why Chicago and why now?

Schrager told us that he has long looked to open in Chicago (where his wife and her family is from) but he couldn't find a property he liked, until now. He admits the hotel has seen better days but it's got a great location and Schrager could see the hotel's potential, one that wouldn't require a ton of financing either.

I quickly jumped in and tried to buy it. What happened was a lot of people that were bidding for it, the way they looked at it, thought that quite a lot of money had to be spent on it. We didn't look at it like that. We looked at it in our original way.

The way we build it, the people will come. It will be a sexy property with a big public space. We don't have to spend the money that a conventional hotel property would have to spend on it.

Indeed initial reports about Schrager's acquisition of Ambassador East mentioned it would be a "cheap and chic" hotel for the jetset set. But this had us thinking of the coffin-rooms at The Hudson Hotel in New York, another Schrager hotel. Fortunately, Schrager says the rooms will be bigger here but the concept will be the same.

The idea there was great style, great design and make it accessible to everyone. That's an idea that I love and there's a part of the market that is wide open. We really want to do a very stylish, simple, modern classic hotel that is really accessible to everybody.

Since we were on the line with the man responsible for creating the boutique hotel trend (Schrager and his partner Steve Rubell created the first boutique experience with The Morgans Hotel in 1984), we had to ask him what he thought of the recent warping of the boutique concept. These days, every hotel is striving for a boutique feel, even the branded chain hotels with 500 to 1,000 rooms inside.

What's happening now is what has always happened to [the hotel industry.] Thirty years ago, all the hotels looked alike. What Steve and I tried to do was something alternative to that. We made it more stylish, made it for people of our generation, fun, with a great food and beverage concept. But now, even though all the hotels have all increased their design, they still all look alike. It's a vicious cycle.

But now he's in a fresh new city with a new-old hotel, so what new things is he going to bring to the Ambassador East?

The same things that have always interested me. The hotel is going to be special, unique and different from what's out there.

With a blanket statement like that, we're going to have to keep detailed notes on just how this will be done.

Renovations on the hotel are set to begin in about nine months or sooner, and they will include the hotel's famed but faded restaurant and lounge, The Pump Room. At this point Schrager has no plans to rename the hotel or the restaurant but we're hoping he keeps Pump Room. It's so old that it's new again! (Ambassador East sounds less cool so we think that could go.)

In the meantime, you can stay at the hotel before it gets Schrager-ized for about $161 a night. Expect those rates to go up slightly after he gets done with it in 2011/12.

Since Ian Schrager regularly reads HotelChatter and with nine months before the Ambassador East renovations begin, now is the time to give your input as to what you would like to see when 'sexy property' opens in 2011. Spill your ideas in comments below.

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