As the recession begins to thaw, developers across Chicagoland are cleaning out their backlog of projects that have been put on ice. Back behind the stack of Doreen’s pizzas, past the single summer ice pop in that special flavor of blue that makes you cough, and beyond the twisted up bag of peas that’s too small to use and too big to throw away, GDS Companies has defrosted its plan for 66 East Wacker Place.
66 East Wacker is one of The Loop’s “gap” properties. Places where you normally wouldn’t think about putting a significant building because of its small size and odd position, but because the land is worth a lot of money, the economics works out make it worth the effort of putting something there after all. The nearby Mather Tower is a historic example of this phenomenon.
But nothing so dramatic as The Mather Tower will rise on East Wacker Place. Based on the construction documents we’ve seen, this project is going to be a 27-story Hilton Garden Inn, designed by GREC Architects in Streeterville. It’s the same firm that did the Hotel Palomar, and the Amalfi Hotel up the street, as well as the nearby Embassy Suites.
This will be the third hotel on Wacker Place, a street that is only one block long. The Hard Rock Hotel, and the Hotel Monaco are also there. Until a few years ago it was part of East South Water Street.
Back then, this location, along with the historic 1928 Illinois Motor Club Building next door, was considered for the world’s first Virgin Hotel. That deal never came through, and Virgin ended up a few blocks away at Lake and Wabash. The 15-story Holabird & Root-designed building has remained untouched.
What becomes of the Motor Club Building remains to be seen. Is the MCB part of the new hotel, as was outlined in previous plans by previous developers? Or does the new 191-room Hilton Garden Inn Chicago Downtown Riverfront Loop Wacker Place stand on its own? We should have the answers to those questions after a public meeting about the project just nine days from now.