You can’t spell “hotel” without the word “hot,” and that describes downtown Chicago’s hospitality market. From office building conversions to new construction, it seems like every developer with a dollar and a dream is eager to put a mint on your pillow.
Two downtown hotel projects go before the Chicago Plan Commission this Thursday morning. One highly anticipated. The other… flying under the radar until now.
First, the big boy — The Essex Inn at 800 South Michigan Avenue. The owners want approval for a dramatic renovation of the 1961 lodge designed by A. Epstein and Sons, and the key word is “more.” The plan includes more hotel rooms, more parking spaces, more retail, and many many more floors. Plus more residences where there currently are none.
The existing, recently landmarked, hotel building will be renovated and end up with 290 hotel rooms — an increase of 33. The building immediately to the south will also be expanded: upward, to a total of 55 stories, making it 620 feet tall. In all that space will go one hundred more hotel rooms, another hundred parking spaces, and 476 new residences.
The other project is a more modest affair, but still significant because of its location, location, location. If approved, 100 West Huron will have 200 hotel rooms across 17 floors, and be 180 feet tall. It’s the latest in a series of hotel proposals that include exactly zero parking. Neighborhood groups hate that, saying that there is a shortage of garage space in downtown Chicago and that having hotels use existing garages drives up rates while reducing availability. Companies that study these sorts of things have repeatedly come to the conclusion that there is plenty of garage capacity, but people who live in the area can give you a Trader Joe’s cart full of anecdotal evidence to the contrary.
We firehosed the West Huron hotel back in March. We’re holding off on doing the same to the Essex Inn for now because all of the paperwork filed with the city so far is old, and only shows the building rising 507 feet and 48 stories, instead of 620 and 55.
But wait! There’s more!
Downtown is not the only neighborhood getting in on Lodgeapalooza this week. Hyde Park is up for a new hostelry as well.
There’s a proposal from Smart/Olympia Illinois to build a 100-room hotel at 1401 East 53rd Street. Those one hundred rooms in the 90-foot-tall building would be serviced by just 16 parking spaces. It’s designed by GREC Architects.