Chicago is one of the few American cities where a man can still commute to work by train, buy a paper at a newsstand, get his shoes shined, relax for a hot straight-razor shave, and meet the fellas for a game of handball at the club at the end of the day. In spite of backpacks* and “casual Friday,” a ribbon of old-school Mad Men-style swagger still runs through downtown.
A bit of that is coming back to life, if in name only, thanks to Oxford Capital Group in River North. You may remember Oxford from such recent hotel projects as the Godfrey Hotel, the Hotel Felix, the magnificent Langham Hotel, and its recent purchase of the Essex Inn on Grant Park.
Oxford is also in the process of renovating and expanding the London Guarantee and Accident Building (360 North Michigan Avenue) into a new hotel, which Oxford has announced will take the name LondonHouse Hotel.
For those of you who don’t spend your free time searching for hidden $1 gems at the Jazz Record Mart on Illinois Street or collecting old 78s from Old School Records in Forest Park, the London Guarantee building once was the home to a major jazz venue and supper club called the London House.
The London House was a place where names like Sarah Vaughan, Nancy Wilson, and Dave Brubeck played, and according to Wikimopedia, Ramsay Lewis’ trio got its start there as the house band.
Does this mean that the space most recently occupied by a Corner Bakery will once again be filled with the delectable blare of the saxophone, and not just from the guy blowing his horn outside the 7-Eleven across the street? Oxford doesn’t mention anything in its press release (which you can read below), other than there will be a bar on the second floor. So maybe a taste of jazz might occasionally return to this building, if the bar adds some live entertainment.
Loop Spy Ryan ambled by the hotel recently and took the photo just above, which shows that renovations are well underway at the base of the building. At the top of this article, there’s a photo we took earlier in the renovation process featuring construction at the top of the building. Note the distinctive cupola, which will become hotel function space. Soon you won’t have to be Helmut Jahn to party like it’s 1939.
Oxford Capital Group, LLC announces “LondonHouse” its new luxury lifestyle hotel on Chicago’s North Michigan Avenue
CHICAGO, Feb. 12, 2015 /PRNewswire/ — Oxford Capital Group, LLC today announced plans to open “LondonHouse” at the corner of North Michigan Avenue and Wacker Drive in the spring of 2016. This latest lifestyle hotel development from Oxford Capital Group, LLC will feature a 452-room hotel within the historic Alfred S. Alschuler-designed London Guarantee & Accident Building, blended with a new 22-story architecturally synchronized Modernist glass tower designed by Chicago’s Goettsch Partners.
Built on the site of Fort Dearborn in 1923, the historic London Guarantee Building is both a local and national landmark. LondonHouse and its 1920’s contemporaries, the Wrigley Building, Tribune Tower and 333 North Michigan Avenue, sit at the southern end of the Mag-Mile and are the iconic and oft photographed flanks of the North Michigan Avenue Bridge.
LondonHouse’s main entrance will be along East Wacker Drive within the new modernist glass tower, which will feature a gateway arrival lobby leading to the grand second floor check-in lobby and bar. LondonHouse will feature approximately 25,000 square feet of meeting and pre-function space comprised of a junior and grand ballroom, multiple board and meeting rooms, a destination spa and robust fitness center. At the top of the hotel, the refurbished historic cupola and roof-top dining and outdoor event spaces will offer what Oxford believes will be Chicago’s only tri-level hotel rooftop, with dramatic panoramic views of the city.
The hotel’s namesake pays nod to both the name of the building, the London Guarantee Building, and the renowned jazz club, London House, long located within. As one of the foremost jazz clubs in the country, London House was home to such notable artists as Ramsey Lewis, Oscar Peterson, Bill Evans, Marian McPartland, Dave Brubeck, and many others.
Work began in the summer of 2013 on the preservation, refurbishment, and comprehensive redevelopment of 360 North Michigan Avenue. Work commenced on the new glass tower addition on Wacker Drive in December of 2014.
“As we said when we bought the building, Oxford and its entire development team feel a profound sense of responsibility to do right by this extraordinary building and site. At the same time, we are excited about the creative possibilities that this project represents,” said John W. Rutledge, founder, president and CEO of Oxford Capital Group, LLC, the Chicago-based owner, developer, and manager. “We feel that carrying on the name LondonHouse is the perfect choice for this most unique hotel.”
The design scheme of LondonHouse, led by Simeone Deary Design Group, speaks to the building’s roots with the use of historic detail, while adopting the progressive thinking of the 1920’s to create modern and chic accents. The color palette will feature warm greys and crisp whites, punctuated by jewel tones and rich fumed eucalyptus woods. The guestroom design is inspired by the luxurious automobiles of that era – clean, sleek, and elegant. The hotel will be outfitted with modern furniture upholstered in lavish materials, paying homage to the opulence of the 1920’s. The lines of the furniture will be contemporary, but embellished with classic touches, providing an overall feeling of serenity and elegance.
Rutledge additionally noted, “Our goal as both developers and hoteliers is to distill the alchemy of the building’s unique history, prominent location, distinctive architecture and interior design, and its host of desirable amenities into what matters the most in any hotel – creating a warm, inviting, and special environment for guests. Ultimately, it’s about giving the hotel a true soul that makes it feel like a home away from home.”
About Oxford Capital Group, LLC and Oxford Hotels & Resorts, LLC
Oxford Capital Group, LLC is a national real estate investment, development and management firm. It specializes in high value-added acquisitions, developments and redevelopments with an emphasis on hotels, resorts, conference centers, senior housing and other operationally intensive forms of real estate. Oxford Hotels & Resorts, LLC is Oxford’s hotel management company that specializes in operating, managing and branding distinctive, high design lifestyle hotels. Oxford’s geographic focus includes the nation’s top 24/7 cities including Chicago, New York City, metro Washington D.C., Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and other select markets with unique attributes including Charleston, SC and New Orleans, LA. Oxford and its affiliates have been involved in approximately $2.5 billion of real estate and private equity transactions, including approximately 13,000 hotel rooms. In addition to national projects such as Hotel Lexington NYC, The Metropolitan Hotel NYC, The National Conference Center in Northern Virginia, and The Godfrey, Boston, LondonHouse is Oxford’s 11th hotel project in the Chicagoland market. These projects have included such noted developments as The Langham, Chicago, Hyatt Magnificent Mile, Renaissance Chicago North Shore, Doubletree North Shore and Conference Center, Hyatt House Chicago-Northwest, and, through a former investment affiliate, the Doubletree Magnificent Mile. Its current portfolio includes a growing collection of upscale, upper upscale and luxury lifestyle hotel brands including Cass, Felix, Godfrey, Essex, and now LondonHouse. For information, visit www.oxford-capital.com.
*Men carry briefcases, not backpacks. If you carry a backpack to work and you’re not in sixth grade or a professional sherpa, it’s time to rethink your lifestyle.