West Town Dealt a West Coast Ace

Ace Hotel drawing

It’s been about four months since Crain’s Chicago Business reported that Ace Hotels, based in Portland, is going to expand the dream of the 90’s to Chicago’s Fulton Market neighborhood.  Now the miniature hotel chain has filed paperwork with the city to plant its flag at 311 North Morgan Street.

The building is currently an old warehouse between West Fulton Market and the Metra railroad tracks, across the street from the Googleplex at 1K Fulton.  It will have spaces for two retail establishments, plus a restaurant with outdoor seating next to, but not on the sidewalk.  The developer wants an easement to use a mostly unused portion of West Carroll Avenue for a driveway.

We’re familiar with Ace from staying at its properties in Seattle’s Belltown neighborhood and more recently at the one in Palm Springs.  The Seattle flagship embodies the Disneyfied retro-modern aesthetic that spawned the hipster culture.  The web site uses modern technology to simulate the look of a 1997 GeoCities page.  It’s pretty much the definition of trying too hard.

If you saw someone commuting to work on a unicycle sporting a full lumberjack beard, wearing a utilikilt, and talking to his Google Glass and don’t bat an eye, then you might fit in at the Ace Hotel.  Which is part of the problem.  Even in neighborhoods like Bridgeport, Logan Square, and Fulton Market, Chicago’s “hipsters” aren’t the hardcore Northwest flavor of hipster that the Ace was spawned by and for.  Chicago’s hipsters are tourist hipsters who like to think of themselves as later-day beatniks, but then go to Cubs games wearing Jack Spade shades after having sushi on Randolph Street.   Yes, novice hipster, drinking P.B.R. and getting a tribal tattoo makes you a unique individual, just like everyone else, Brosef.

The Ace in Palm Springs again takes local culture to a Disneyfied level, with whitewashed walls and sleek curves evocative of the town’s famous Mid-century Modern housing and office stock.  The rooms are decorated like Dean Martin’s bachelor dorm room (had he gone to college), but it’s still true to its hipster roots with Stumptown coffee, toiletries from Rudy’s Barbershop, and an artist-in-residence.

Whether the Chicago Ace Hotel remains true to its roots, or embraces the hipster-lite culture of the Fulton Market area, chances are it will be successful simply because of the state of the hotel industry in Chicago.  Ace Hotels are typically very neighborhood-friendly, like the Hotel Felix in River North.  And like the Felix, the Ace location is positioned geographically to not only cater to the locals, but also handle the still-swelling demand for tourist hotels downtown.  That is, if there are any rooms left.  Remember, this building is right across the street from Big G’s new midwest headquarters, and if there’s one thing I learned during my time working in the west coast tech sector, it’s that putting a hotel or an apartment building near a company like Google or Microsoft is pretty much a license to print money.

Facts and figures and facts:

  • Address: 311 North Morgan Street
  • Neighborhood: West Town
  • Developer: 311 North Morgan, LLC
  • Developer: 345 North Morgan, LLC
  • For realsies: Sterling Bay Companies
  • Architecture firm: GREC Architects
  • Maximum height: 85 feet
  • Floors: 8, including mechanical penthouse
  • Property size: 33,403 square feet
  • Floor area ratio: 5.0
  • Project size: 167,015 square feet
  • Parking spaces: 30
  • Length: 262 feet
  • Depth: 139 feet
  • Bicycle parking spaces: 10
  • Loading docks: 2
  • Green roof alert! 11,518 square feet

Location: 311 North Morgan Street, West Town

Author: Editor

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

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