The best new Chicago hotels of 2014 are hard to top, but 2015 promises to keep heating up the scene with unique, highly anticipated brands, some of which are making their global debut here.
Here are the four most anticipated Chicago hotel openings of 2015.
1. Virgin Hotel Chicago
203 N. Wabash Ave., 855-946-6600; from $245
After a year-plus of delays and months of teasers, all eyes are on Richard Branson’s Virgin Hotel, scheduled to open in Chicago’s Loop on January 15. Occupying the Old Dearborn Bank building just south of the Chicago River, the 292-room hotel promises restored Art Deco features, high-tech touches (an app that lets you do everything from check in to controlling your thermostat), and rooms with separate dressing chambers, large vanities in lieu of desks, and beds with functional seatbacks. Chef Rick Gresh will lead four dining concepts, including the second-floor Commons Club and, opening in March, Miss Ricky’s, a 23-hour, street-level diner. In spring, an underground spa and rooftop lounge with a venue for live music will complete the world’s first-ever Virgin Hotel.
Word on the Street: Branson is set on doing things differently. While free Wifi isn’t necessarily new (Acme, Soho House and Langham are among the Chicago hotels already offering it), not charging for things like extra bandwidth, room service delivery, and day-of cancellations is.
2. The Chicago Athletic Association
12 S. Michigan Ave.
While everyone makes a fuss over the Virgin, the 241-room hotel being developed by John Pritzker and AJ Capital just a few blocks away within the Chicago Athletic Association is cruising in under the radar. A gentleman’s-only club from 1893 to 2007, this architectural gem has been closed to the general public for 110-plus years. Wait for it when the hotel opens in May. Last year, Roman and Williams hinted that rooms will be campy and modern, the gym will become a ballroom, a pool hall will be part of a sprawling second floor with palatial ceilings, and a rooftop with a greenhouse will look across Millennium Park. Several bars and restaurants will also include an 80-seat, street-level Shake Shack.
Word on the Street: Imagine the bones of an ornate Venetian Gothic landmark rich with stories and dressed in a vision created by Roman and Williams, the design duo responsible for New York’s Ace and Viceroy, among others. The interiors here are going to blow minds.
3. Loews Chicago Hotel
455 N. Park Dr., 877-868-8232; from $250
Slated to open on March 2, the 400-room Loews will be the first from the brand to come to downtown Chicago. It’s the tallest hotel in this line up, too, rising 52 stories above Streeterville in a new shimmery tower that will include unstuffy rooms finished with cashmere, leather, and endless views through floor-to-ceiling windows. A luxury spa, fitness center, Argentinian steakhouse helmed by a celebrity chef (yet to be announced), and a separate tower with some 300 residential units will complete the Loews.
Word on the Street: The hotel’s best feature arrives later this spring, when the nearly 9,000-square-foot rooftop deck opens with more views of the skyline and river.
4. Freehand Chicago
19 E. Ohio St., 312-531-2727
Yes, it’s a hostel, but easily among the poshest and coolest of the communal set for three reasons. First, like the brand’s debut property—the hip Freehand Miami—Freehand Chicago will also be designed by the award-winning Roman and Williams (the second Chicago property for the design team). Second, the 217-room hostel includes 133 private rooms—something even a grown-up traveler might consider. And third, though an official room rate hasn’t yet been shared, rates are expected to be among the most affordable in the city (rates at the Miami property range from $37 for a shared room of eight to $196 for a private room). The hostel is set to open this spring in River North’s former Tokyo Hotel.
Word on the Street: Freehand will open the Chicago location of the Broken Shaker, Freehand Miami’s bar and a James Beard semifinalist for two years running.