South Loop May Get Another New Hotel Tower, With or Without McPier

Diagram of proposed McHugh hotel and data center

Real estate development is a rather messy business. Not on par with sausage making, but certainly up there with cleaning out the cat’s litter box. Add in a bunch of politicians, some NIMBY groups, a shadowy quango, and the next thing you know, you’re where we are now: The McCormick Place Expansion Plan.

We’ve followed this project for the last year or so. The Metropolitan Pier and Convention Authority, which runs McCormick Place and Navy Pier, and never ever uses the name “McPier,” even though everyone else does, wanted to build a great big hotel, a little boutique hotel, and a new arena/event center next to the existing McCormick Place on the edge of the Prairie Avenue District. Seems pretty straightforward, except that McPier didn’t own all of the land that it needed to build all these shiny new buildings. Part of the land is owned by McHugh Construction, the company that quite literally built half of modern Chicago.

McPier fired up its lawyers, McHugh fired up its lawyers and in the paper fight of McP vs. McH, it was the Pier that blinked first and revised its plans, moving the big hotel and kicking the boutique hotel idea down the road a piece.

Diagram of proposed McHugh hotel and data centerNow McHugh has decided that building a hotel on that chunk of land isn’t such a bad idea after all, and has filed paperwork with the city to make it happen. But it’s not proposing a cute little boutique hotel with borderline naughty things in the mini-bar and rental goldfish. It’s big. Like 30-stories big. It also wants to build an enormous data hotel on the site. The catch is, part of the land is owned by… stay with us here… McPier.

The question is, will all of the city agencies necessary for this plan to move ahead actually sign off on the plan after McHugh so very publicly scuttled McPier’s plans. As a quango, McPier isn’t supposed to have any such influence. But this is Chicago, where the right phone call to the right people can move mountains, or stop them in their tracks.

We suspect this will play out for the next few months in the papers, so keep an eye on Crain’s Chicago Business (or to a lesser extent, the emaciated remains of the Tribune’s real estate and architecture reportage). We’ll bring you an update when things start looking less like briefcases and Wacker Drive meetings and more like hardhats and bulldozers.

Until then, here are the details. Note that the plan consists of three buildings: The people hotel, the data hotel, and a building at 2215 South Michigan.  Diagram gallery follows the bullet points.

  • Developer: 121 East Cermak LLC
  • Total gross project size: 172,241 square feet
  • Green roof alert!
  • Going for LEED Silver

People Hotel:

  • Stories: 27+mechanical
  • Building height: 320 feet
  • Length: 341 feet
  • Width: 96 feet
  • Gross size: 59,623 square feet
  • Hotel rooms: 650
  • Retail space: 15,000 square feet
  • Parking: none
  • Bicycle parking: 20 spaces
  • Loading docks: 1

Data Hotel:

  • Stories: 8
  • Building height: 142 feet
  • Length: 459 feet
  • Width: 161 fet
  • Gross size: 102,157 square feet
  • Retail space: 2,762 square feet
  • Parking: 127 spaces
  • Bicycle parking: 10 spaces
  • Loading docks: 1

2215 South Michigan:

  • Building height: 66 feet
  • Length: 160 feet
  • Width: 50 feet
  • Gross size: 10,461 square feet
  • Retail space: 31,816 square feet
  • Parking: none
  • Bicycle parking: none


Author: Editor

Editor founded the Chicago Architecture Blog in 2003, after a long career in journalism. He can be reached at

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