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Last Thursday, the Virgin Hotels Chicago opened at last, making it the first-ever city hotel for billionaire entrepreneur Richard Branson. Chicago stepped inside for a look around what has become the most anticipated hotel opening in the city, if not the country.

The verdict? While there’s still more to come over the next several months, what has been unveiled at the 250-room Virgin Chicago (203 N. Wabash Ave.) is proof that Branson is making good on doing something different. 

Locals don’t need to be a guest to find out, either. Anyone can enter the lobby at street level, bypassing two yet-to-open dining options—a rugged, cozy café-wine bar (Two Zero Three) and a shimmery 23-hour diner (Miss Ricky’s)—to get to the second-floor Commons Club. The hotel opened in the Old Dearborn Bank Building and restored highlights include the marble staircase that takes you there.

Not your typical hotel lounge, the multi-use Commons Club houses a sleek, oval bar; a circular shag room; shared workspaces on big tables with outlets; plenty of nooks for two; and an open-air kitchen pushing out small plates by chef Rick Gresh (who will lead the charge on the hotel’s other dining venues). It’s a great space—vibrant, complicated, sophisticated, and unique.

Those who book a stay (from $195) will be treated to mod, posh rooms designed for the modern, tech-savvy traveler. Called “chambers,” the rooms are separated by a large sliding door into two spaces, one for sleeping and one for getting dressed and ready.

There’s no work desk, but there is a functional swivel table with a tower-like Bluetooth speaker. The mini-bar is stocked with drinks and snacks that are priced comparably with the drug store down the street. Inside the dressing chamber, there’s a large, stylish vanity.

The patent-pending bed designed specifically for the Virgin brand features a sexy seat back at one corner of the bed (you decide how that will be used). In dog-friendly rooms, there’s even an added foot bed for Fido (plus an striking dog statue at the entry).

And the Wifi with a substantial bandwidth is offered at no charge. Ditto for room service delivery and day-of cancellation fees.

Look for the hotel to make its gradual grand entry over the next several months, with Two Zero Three set to open in February, Miss Ricky’s in early March, a large rooftop in April, and an underground spa by May.

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