As Chicago’s boutique hotel boom continues well into another year, the city’s next high-profile launch will touch down in Hyde Park this July, a departure from the offerings in recent years which have seen the rise of new upscale hotel offerings crop up in trendy North Side neighborhoods and throughout the city’s downtown. Dubbed Sophy, the upscale 98-room hotel being wrapped up at the corner of 53rd Street and Dorchester Avenue will become the first of its kind for the South Side neighborhood, but is just one of several big developments underway in Hyde Park.
Similar to its peers, such as The Robey in Wicker Park and possibly even the Hotel Zachary in Wrigleyville, the new hotel’s theme riffs off of historic events and figures with a connection to the area. It’s an approach that has become popular with boutique hotels—one in which developers believe will lure visitors seeking a more authentic neighborhood experience. But the hotel project comes at the request of the University of Chicago, says Mike Zimmerman, Vice President of Development for The Olympia Companies.
“When we had looked at the Hyde Park market in 2010, the University of Chicago suggested that we do a boutique hotel as there was very little hotel inventory in the area. We advised the university at the time that it was too big a leap and start with a franchise hotel,” Zimmerman says, noting that his company and partner Smart Hotels were the team behind the Hyatt Place Chicago-South which was completed in the summer of 2013.
In addition to delivering nearly 100 rooms to the neighborhood, the hotel will boast amenities such as a restaurant and cocktail bar on the ground level. Decor and imagery in these spaces will highlight science and music luminaries such as Enrico Fermi, Mahalia Jackson, and Herbie Hancock, says Zimmerman, suggesting that the figures all played an important role in putting Hyde Park on the map. And while hotel’s identity and interior themes takes cues from prominent Hyde Park figures, Greg Randall of GREC Architects, a firm which has been busy with projects in the West Loop, says that the building’s exterior design also nods to the neighborhood’s diversity in architectural styles.
“Every single building as you go east to west on 53rd Street has a very different look and feel, but one thing that was thematic was masonry,” Randall says, while adding that the choice of using a Norman-style brick for the exterior is a reference to the nearby Robie House by Frank Lloyd Wright. “There are some really successful buildings and archetypes we want to nod to but not mimic—we’re trying to be a little more innovative in our choices.”