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Nick Fochtman

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Take a tour through Wicker Park’s new Robey hotel

The 69-room boutique hotel officially opens Wednesday, November 30

After years of planning and performing renovation work, the new Robey hotel finally opens this week in Wicker Park. Located in the historic Northwest Tower designed by Perkins, Chatten & Hammond, the new hotel blends contemporary boutique hotel styling with the stoic art deco bones of the 12-story building. The project comes from developer Convexity Properties with the Mexico City-based Grupo Habita functioning as the hotel operator. In total, the hotel features 69 guest rooms and a number of food and beverage offerings, including a rooftop bar and lounge that offers unobstructed views of the Chicago skyline.

The Robey is a new entry to the burgeoning boutique hotel scene in Chicago, and it certainly faces some stiff competition. However, Grupo Habita founder and partner Carlos Couturier believes that the project taps into the under appreciated hospitality market outside of the city’s downtown. But the hotel is actually just one of a pair on the corner of Milwaukee and North avenues—it is joined by a separate concept called The Hollander which offers a mix of private and shared rooms.

Like many hoteliers, Couturier wanted the hotel to have a theme and a vibe that would help it stand out among the crowd of new hotels. "The whole hotel feels like an Edward Hopper experience," Carlos Couturier, Grupo Habita founder and partner, told us during the tour. "We wanted to have an all-American experience." Although the operators are based out of Mexico City, they looked to the Belgium-based Nicolas Schuybroek Architects and Marc Merckx Interiors for the interior renovation and redesign for the hotel. Vintage American decor and an earthy, Prairie-style color palette were the inspiration behind the hotel’s interior theme.

And as far as the name, Couturier admits that it was a challenge coming up with something that would fit and would have meaning. "We really struggled with the name," Couturier stated. "Everything that we came up with was already taken or used somewhere else." However, Couturier says that they settled on the name The Robey when they found out that Damen Avenue was called Robey Street around the time that the Northwest Tower was built.

Nick Fochtman

While the hotel’s room number count or amenity levels are not as big as the ones found in other recent offerings in the downtown area, The Robey does have a few key highlights. The hotel features a 2,100-square-foot rooftop bar and indoor/outdoor lounge area. As expected, the views from the rooftop are excellent, but what some may find equally interesting is the ornamental art deco relief at the very top of the tower’s spire. Having been a private office building for decades and then shuttered for a number of years after, hotel guests will have an opportunity to hang out on the roof of the building. There will also be a second indoor/outdoor deck space with a small pool scheduled to open next spring.

Nick Fochtman

The overhaul of the building was not a simple task as the Commission on Chicago Landmarks kept a close eye on the renovation. Couturier was quick to point out the restored original windows in the building. And speaking of windows, some of the rooms (specifically the "panorama suites") feature up to a dozen windows—which are all controlled by a remote shading system. In total, Couturier says that the entire project has been in the works for three years and that the build out took 18 months. The hotel officially opens to the public on Wednesday, November 30.


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