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First Look: Rock ‘n’ Roll Days Inn Gets Makeover, Debuts as Hotel Versey

A storied hotel on the border of Lake View and Lincoln Park gets substantial upgrades and local touches.

Photo: DS Shin

Rumor has it Sheryl Crow rollerbladed through the lobby of the Days Inn Chicago on the corner of Clark, Broadway, and Diversey. Alanis Morissette is said to have shared sushi with the hotel’s desk clerk. And the housekeeping staff once dealt with bathtubs stained with hair dye from hotel guests Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love.

Back then, the hotel was fittingly known as the “Rock and Roll Days Inn.” This week, the 1920s building will officially debut as Hotel Versey. The name gives a nod to the building’s original name—Diversey Arms, which was home to jazz musician Bix Beiderbecke in 1925—as well as its V-shape on a triangle-shaped lot.

Renovations kicked off in February and have taken the hotel from a more traditional Days Inn (though “we’ve always been a step above other Days Inns,” says Stefanie Hrejsa, Hotel Versey’s general manager) to a 137-room hotel that feels more like a boutique hotel.

A few updates are still to come, including a street-front restaurant, a couple of ground-level retailers, and an update to the Days Inn signage on the outside of the building. The hotel still falls under the Days Inn by Wyndham umbrella, and this is the first time Days Inn is trying this brand-within-a-brand approach.

Here’s a first look at the updates following an exclusive tour yesterday.

Chicago-centric Design

Nearly every part of the hotel’s new design, led by Julie Babcock of Chipman Design Architecture, showcases Chicago. In the lobby, shelves are lined with Cubs paraphernalia (including a green apple, a nod to Harry Caray’s famous quip, “Sure as God made green apples, some day the Chicago Cubs are going to be in the World Series”) and a small statue representing Mrs. O’Leary’s falsely maligned cow. The light fixture in the center of the lobby was constructed from old Chicago Reader covers. Though locals might consider it overkill, we could see how the custom treatment could appeal to tourists.

Nod to Its Musical Past

The lobby walls also feature albums from artists who’ve visited over the years and helped the hotel build its rock ‘n’ roll reputation. “Way back when, we had a GM here who loved the bands,” Hrejsa says. “Bands were coming already because of all the venues around here, and she really encouraged that, gave them really low rates, let the tour buses park out front, and was friendly with a lot of them, and that’s how they kept coming.”

Local Art

Once you enter the building, you’ll walk through what the hotel’s calling the “Art Arrival” corridor. The pieces lining the walls feature local artists, including a guitar and case by Meg Harper, a graffiti wall by Joe Miller, and Zac Ridgely’s chandelier-like sculptures made from bike parts.

Neighborhood-y Location

Once concentrated in the Loop and other downtown areas, boutique hotels are popping up elsewhere in the city. We’ve covered the new Robey hotel in Wicker Park and the Midtown Athletic Club hotel in the no-man’s-land between Logan Square and Lincoln Park. There’s also an Ace Hotel opening in West Loop. Similarly at Hotel Versey, located on the border between Lincoln Park and Lake View, “This is more of a stay-where-the-locals-stay and do-as-the-locals-do place, and you’re still close enough to downtown or McCormick Place and museums,” Hrejsa says. Guests have easy access to Lincoln Park, Lake Michigan, and Wrigley Field and will find a neighborhood guide in each room.

Room Updates

The rooms have been outfitted with 50-inch TVs, Nespresso machines, and SoniCast devices that allow guests to live stream videos from a phone or laptop. The Chicago décor theme also carries through on the walls behind each bed, which highlight iconic Chicago sites like Wrigley Field, the Ferris wheel at Navy Pier, and the skyline.

The hotel was open through renovations and will celebrate the end of construction with its official ribbon cutting on Wednesday. Room prices start at $229.

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