60603 Travel Guide
This once-secret bar with crazy mid-century modern design is bound to be a swank bar again
With stylin’ new Chicago hotels of all shapes and styles popping up and filing into the queue, you would think it not possible for the city’s hotel scene to get any better. And yet it does with the latest news that Roman and Williams Buildings and Interiors will be designing the interiors of the Chicago Athletic Association, transforming the landmark building into a 250-room hotel by its target open date of fall 2014.
Design fanatics need no introduction to Roman and Williams, the white-hot New York design firm that has garnered much deserved attention for its remarkably thoughtful work, which has ranged from Hollywood movie sets and celebrity home design for Gyneth Paltrow and Kate Hudson to ground-up buildings like 211 Elizabeth Street. Hotel fanatics will recognize the name behind the game-changing, gritty-pop Ace Hotel in New York, The Standard NYC’s Boom Boom Room and the forthcoming Viceroy set to open across from Central Park this fall. Pop culture fiends will know the name from recent news in The New York Times, GQ, Bazaar, WSJ, etc.
Founded in 2002 by husband and wife team Stephen Alesch and Robin Standefer, the couple has an extraordinary gift for merging past with future and creating tension between unexpected objects and time periods. All that is to say, they are really really good at restoring and reinventing historic places.
UPDATE: We initially had this Thompson property (the old Sutton Place hotel) confused with the hotel planned for the old Chicago Athletic building. Thanks to commenter hapmonk for pointing out our mistake.
Last we checked on the status of Thompson Chicago was back in December but six months later, there's not much to add.
Right now, the hotel's website is saying this:
Located in the heart of Chicago’s affluent Gold Coast, Thompson Chicago will represent the sophisticated luxury that the Thompson brand is known for. Positioned just steps from Michigan Avenue, boutiques on Oak Street, and downtown dining and nightlife destinations, the 246-room hotel will offer unparalleled views of Lake Michigan. Featuring bold interior architecture with rich accents by acclaimed British designer Tara Bernerd, the Thompson Chicago will also feature a new signature restaurant by One Off Hospitality.
In short, it will be very Thompson-y.
Initially, we had heard this hotel would open in December but now the website is just saying, "2013." What could this ever mean? We won't hold our breath but god, we hope it's sooner rather than later. And who knows? Maybe Thompson is also working on some killer WiFi network that's fast and reliable and totally free! Ok, that's asking too much. Sigh.
This space will likely turn into several suites for the new Chicago hotel
Back in July we shared the news that the Chicago Athletic Association, a Venetian-Gothic landmark on Michigan Avenue, had been purchased and would soon be transformed into a 240-room hotel, adding to the city’s booming roster of new concept hotels.
Today, we’re excited to share photos of the interior, which we captured last week on an exclusive tour with Ben Weprin, founder of Chicago-based AJ Capital and one of two partners behind the purchase. John Pritzker, son of the late Jay Pritzker and founder of Hyatt Hotels, is the other partner in on the deal. The hotel has yet to be named.
Obviously, there’s still loads of dust to clear and work to be done, but you’ll see right through it just as we did. Hold on to your hats, people, because the bones of this new hotel might blow your mind. And not just because they are awesome and historic, but because they will remain a restored highlight of a fresh, new hotel that you will be able to visit.
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New this May, JW Marriott Chicago's chlorine-less pool touted a UV-light filtration process
Here’s what we know so far: an outbreak of Legionnaires' disease has been connected to 10 guests who visited or stayed at the JW Marriot Chicago between mid-July and mid-August. As of this past Friday, three of those guests died from the disease. The same strain of legionella bacteria found in the ill guests was also found in JW Marriott Chicago's pool, whirlpool, and decorative fountain in the main lobby, all of which have since been drained. The bacteria was also found in the men's and women's lockers rooms.
The Chicago Department of Public Health reported last week that the JW Marriott was fully cooperating with the ongoing investigation and had taken the recommended measures to reduce the risk of exposure. They now believe there is no ongoing health threat at the hotel.
It's heavy hotel news, but sadly, legionnaires' happens in the hotel (hot-tubing, cruise-shipping and hospital-going) world. Last year alone, it sickened two guests and claimed the life of another at Luxor, and sickened six at Aria, both in Vegas.
Essentially a severe pneumonia, legionnaires’ is caused by high concentrations of legionella bacteria that show up in water. It can survive for many months in that wet environment, especially in warm water. Transmission isn’t totally understood, but the gist of it is that it’s not spread by person-to-person contact but by inhaling or ingesting the legionella microbes (read: drinking the water, breathing in the vapor above and around the water). Once contracted, legionnaires’ can take anywhere from two to eight days to show up.
Deep in the hotel trenches, we also know that the new-in-May pool at JW Marriott was very unique in its UV filtration process—an important fact absent from the majority of news on the outbreak. Dubbed a high-tech pool by the hotel, the 11.2 meter chlorine-less pool was instead filtered by UV-light. According to the hotel’s original press release on the pool, “the water flows through UV-light chambers to eliminate 99% of all toxins and bacteria resulting in less chlorine in the pool than in average drinking water.” The release continues, “The absence of chlorine eliminates allergies and irritations and offers the feeling of swimming in a fresh water lake.”
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It looks like Chicago will be adding another boutique hotel to its rapidly-growing scene in 2014, with the conversion of the historic Chicago Athletic Association building into a 240-room hotel.
Located in the MIchigan Avenue landmark district, the building used to function as a hangout for wealthy Chicago bachelors in the early 1900s. A place where, according to the Chicago Tribune, "one could exercise, enjoy a fine meal in a beautiful setting, and then retire to a comfortable room for the evening, all under one roof." Sounds pretty good to us.
Just add in a flat-screen TV and an iPod/iPad docking station, and you're pretty much caught up to the demands of today's hotel guests.
We never thought we'd say the 20,000-square-foot Valeo at JW Marriott Chicago could use more offerings in its already intense spa program, but the hotel spa's new UV-light filtered pool and Express Spa Lounge have us changing our tune.
Where Valeo previously captured hardcore spa goers (think radiant heat Clarity Chambers and over-the-top personal care consulting), the spa’s newest extensions brings luxurious treatments to guests with less time to kill.
We stopped by the Express Lounge and breathed a sigh of relief. No need to “consult” about anything (though the option is definitely there), guests can jump into any number of treatments that typically range from 10-40 minutes, including pedis (starting at $25), facials (starting at $30) and Table Thai and Shiatsu Massage (beginning at $25).
Go for “The Trifecta” and you can get a mani, pedi and facial – or any three treatments of your choice – all at the same time. Opt for less, too, if you have only five minutes to spare – this new facet of Valeo is all about accommodating busy schedules.
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There are hotels like the Renaissance New Orleans Arts where art is used to create a sort of sanctuary for guests, and then there are hotels that have designed entire lobbies around art. Case in point: the iconic lobby ceiling mural at The Palmer House Hilton. We stopped by earlier this week following a recently completed, massive restoration of the mural and totally fell under the hotel’s art for art’s sake spell.
But thanks to the hotel reps we've got some real photos snapped yesterday of the magical boards. As we told you, the signs are positioned on the ground, second, third and fourth floors of the hotel and with the screen-touch of a button, they give you news, attraction information, travel and flight updates as well as event listings. You can even get directions to a local spot from the hotel.
[Photos: Wagstaff Worldwide for JW Marriott Chicago. Thanks Caiti!]
If you don't want to bother waiting in line for the concierge or to get on a computer at the business center to get some info, the JW Marriott Chicago offers interactive signs that will give you the lowdown on everything from news to directions around the city.
The signs—which are positioned on the ground, second, third and fourth floors of the Chicago hotel—let you get all this information with the touch of a button, like a virtual concierge.
While hotels have opened their rooftops for alcohol-fueled summer fun, the Palmer House Hilton is choosing to offer chili peppers, heirloom tomatoes and basil instead of beer and cocktails on its 25th floor. The Chicago hotel recently unveiled its new 2,000-square-foot garden rooftop.
The hotel decided to plant some veggies and herbs to be used in its restaurants, Lockwood and Potter's Lounge, for a garden-to-table culinary experience. Plus, Lockwood will feature a daily "Chef's Garden" menu item for breakfast that will feature ingredients grown on the rooftop.
The Burnham ballroom
The very first thing we noticedhotel dorks as we areis that the W Chicago-City Center sits directly across the street. it's so close that at night, the W's purple-lit facade glows into the lobby of the JW Marriott, and you can almost feel the hotel tension in the air. Happily the properties cater to two difference sorts of business and leisure travelers, although each probably wishes they have both.
There's the pretty blatant line drawn, however: do you prefer modern, yet conservative luxury or something a bit up tempo? The first is the JW and the latter would be the W. The JW versus the Whow funny.
Something the J-dub has going for it is massive conference space. We're talking impressive for a historic downtown hotel. The lobby is open and massive enough to accommodate arriving guests for their several ballrooms, the best of which is absolutely the 6,000-square-foot Burnham ballroom. The ribs of the ceiling, which once supported a ginormous skylight over what once was an equally ginormous atrium back in the day, are now preserved and incorporated into the design, even though floors have been added below it. Chicago architecture fans will have conniptions (the good sort) walking in here.
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A video of a basic room followed by a room with double beds, accessed through the connecting room door
It's a big deal when a new hotel debuts in Chicago. You see, it doesn't happen as often as in New York, but when it does, it's typically worth going out of your way to visit. Such is the case with the JW Marriott Chicago, a mammoth property of 622 rooms that dominates an entire block, the building perpendicular to both the Chicago Board of Trade and the
Sears Willis Tower.
Now the JW Marriott actually opened back in November 2010, but with the restaurants and whatnot still testing out their training wheels these last few months, the hotel didn't have its "Grand Opening" until this month. We were lucky to be in Chicago at the time, so we embarked on a thorough tour of the place and can say that Marriott has done some lovely things with the place. Rooms begin around $250 per night, but there's no question of whether or not you'll get a bathtub and flatscreen TV, large windows and chocolates on the pillow; that all comes standard.