One of the greatest trends happening in Chicago real estate development at the moment is the adaptive reuse of historic buildings into hotels, and one of the most exciting projects underway is the complete renovation of the old London Guarantee & Accident Building on Michigan Avenue. Standing at the site of the old Fort Dearborn, the 23 story tower was designed by noted Chicago architect Alfred S. Alschuler and built in 1923. The tower exemplified the City Beautiful Movement, and became a perfect companion to the nearby Tribune Tower, Wrigley Building and next door Mather Tower when it was originally completed. Today, the tower is being transformed by developer Oxford Capital Group, who is certainly no stranger to the hotel and hospital scene in Chicago. The plan is to not only restore the old London Guarantee Building, but to fill the space between it and the Mather Tower with a new glassy addition that will serve as the main entrance and provide a number of guest rooms. Len Koroski of Goettsch Partners has been tapped to oversee design duties for the newly named LondonHouse hotel, and offered us some insight (and incredible downtown views) on a tour of the project.
The building is currently gutted, but when the project is finished early next year, the hotel will feature 452 guest rooms, 21,000 square feet of retail space on the first and second floors, a public ground-level restaurant, a ballroom space and a large two-level outdoor rooftop terrace. So beyond the numbers, what does this all mean in the grand scheme of things? Koroski suggests that there are a few key things to be excited about. First, the ground floor retail space is right at Michigan Avenue and the river, and in addition to other retail projects on the block, will help fill the gap on the street and draw Mag Mile shoppers south towards Millennium Park. And similar to the rest of the building, the retail space located in the old London Guarantee Building will sport some of its original, restored fixtures, notably its tall windows.
Another thing that makes this project just a little bit different is the shape of the building and the room floor plans. The hotel won't be a giant box with rooms that all look and feel the same. Because of the building's location and shape, some rooms will offer incredible views of the Chicago River, while others will allow visitors to take in the views from Michigan Avenue. The rooms will also be well finished and furnished, as the project is aiming at the high end market. It likely won't be competing with the ultra lux hotel spots, but it's definitely not going to be a Holiday Inn either.
And finally, perhaps the most exciting thing about the entire project is the large rooftop space. The hotel will feature a bar and lounge area on the 21st floor, and at that level, guests will be able to hop on a separate elevator that will take them to two levels of outdoor terraces. One of the most significant design features of the old London Guarantee Building is its ornamental cupola at the very top of the building, but Koroski says that the domed structure will actually have a function in the new LondonHouse plan. It'll actually be a useable space, offering incredible views of downtown and the Chicago River. And beyond the incredible views, all of the limestone ornamentation at the top of the building has been restored. Koroski suggests that the cupola will become a popular wedding spot, and it's easy to see why.
There's still a lot of work to be done, but most of the exterior of the old building has been restored and the caissons for the new tower are installed. Construction crews were busily working on every section of both the new and old sections of the project in hopes of getting the highly anticipated hotel and its retail space completed and opened by spring 2016.
[rendering by Goettsch Partners]
·Glassy Addition Underway at the London Guarantee Building [Curbed Chicago]
·11 Historic Buildings Getting New Life as Hotels & Apartments [Curbed Chicago]
·Hotel Boom Town archives [Curbed Chicago]