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First Impressions: Is Chicago’s New Ivy Hotel A Little Too Green?

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  Site Where: 233 E. Ontario [map], Chicago, IL, United States, 60611
June 28, 2012 at 12:23 PM | by | ()

The in-room mini bar and work desk at Ivy Hotel Chicago, or the web of wires

Remember when The Ivy Hotel opened and we were told this would be the ultimate in Chicago boutique luxury? Ivy was aiming high but we were down with that program; who wouldn’t want to see something more beautiful and posh than the likes of Chicago’s Waldorf Astoria?

To quote that first conversation, the hotel’s managing director, James Cazares, said this of the then-forthcoming Ivy: “There is no one else in the city who will be so small and so luxurious.” Even the hotel website starts with this: “Welcome to The Best Of Boutique Hotels in Chicago.”

Sigh. We recently stopped by the hotel after its opening last month and are sad to report it doesn’t quite reach that pinnacle of luxury. Though the boutique hotel has definitely made good on its promise to build a green property, another kind of green vibe is showing up and reflects a newbie hotel that may need some time to pull it together.

Suites at Ivy have beautiful sitting areas -- too bad for the fire escape backdrop

Don’t get us wrong: Ivy is a solid and sparkly-new property, it’s just not the high-end luxury boutique we were promised. As far as we could see, there was no iPad check-in, no espresso machine (but instead a Keurig coffee maker) and no Lexus hybrids sitting outside for complimentary drop off service.

The rooftop isn’t finished, there’s no spa, pool or fitness center (though you can pick up a complimentary pass for a nearby health club); we knew this about the hotel prior to the visit, but it bears repeating since these all add to the posh factor.

The room we visited showed wires hanging around the mini bar and under the desk; we also noticed ice machines were only on some floors. A real attention to detail – that glorious high-touch seen at hotels like Waldorf and Trump Chicago – just isn’t there.

Luxury aside, Ivy still offers many noteworthy amenities and comforts. A beautiful modern décor runs throughout Ivy’s rooms and public spaces (the lobby and small restaurant are particularly stunning). We also like the hotel’s high-tech features, including service and “Do Not Disturb” requests via push button, TVs in the mirror bathroom, automatic lights that trigger on when you step out of bed and automatic window curtains. There’s also rainforest shower heads, a big soaking tub with sea salts, a promising rooftop space and an attentive staff.

Props to Ivy's beautiful and cozy lobby resto/bar with great people-watching views of Ontario Street

Ivy deserves acknowledgment for its sustainable, environmentally-friendly design, too, especially in the hotel’s rooms where we found bamboo flooring under thistle rugs, 100% organic and fair-trade towels, and LED lighting.

Hopefully the hotel will work out the kinks soon and we’ll get to see a more polished side once we get around to staying overnight. We seem to recall Ivy is a first for the family-run brand so there’s the learning curve to consider. But even as the hotel muddles through its start and – fingers crossed – eventually smooths out its rough edges, it’s hard to imagine Ivy will ever be the smallest and most luxurious boutique hotel in Chicago.

We found rates for Ivy Hotel starting at $299 for a Studio Queen.

Photos: Nina Kokotas Hahn

Archived Comments:

Stay aware from the Ivy Boutique Hotel!

This hotel has issues, even worse than the author wrote. Water/shower issues, climate control issues and a tv system that is a total failure and locks up all the time (every 20 minutes or so when we stayed July 14-15). Shower water pressure fluctuates to the point of virtually stopping and just dripping. This happens every minute or so. Worse, the manager (James) is ineffective and unhelpful. Run, don't walk. There are plenty far better in Chicago!