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Downtown's Much-Anticipated LondonHouse Hotel Opens to the Public

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The hotel brings a modern addition to a classic Chicago building

The latest project following a recent trend of classic Chicago buildings reborn as hotels, the highly anticipated 452-key LondonHouse officially opens its doors to the public today. Located at the corner of Michigan Avenue and Wacker Drive in the 1923 former London Guarantee & Accident Building, the $200 million project features an extensive renovation of the historic Alfred Alschuler-designed building plus a modern addition penned by local architects Goettsch Partners.

Though the glassy annex — which contains the hotel’s lobby, ballroom, and a portion of its 21st floor indoor bar — represents a deliberate visual departure from the traditional style of the London Guarantee building, it compliments the old structure through subtle hints such as matching horizontal cornice lines. The result fills a long-standing void between two of Chicago’s most iconic 1920s structures, creating a contiguous streetwall along one of Wacker Drive’s most prominent riverfront stretches.

While original details like the London Guarantee & Accident Building’s original gold-leaf ceiling have been carefully restored, new spaces within the complex feature a handsome mix of new and old, not dissimilar to what was achieved with the hotel conversion of the classic Chicago Athletic Association. The LondonHouse borrows its namesake from the London House jazz club that occupied a space in the building until the early 1970s and will feature live performances in its lounge as a nod to its musical past. The hotel also features 21,000 square feet of retail on its first two floors, though much of this space is still raw and is awaiting build-out and occupancy.

By far the highlight of LondonHouse is its rooftop terrace which has long been billed as one of downtown Chicago’s most anticipated openings. The deck allows guests to take in views of the Chicago River and neighboring skyscrapers as well as admire the building’s neoclassical ornamentation up close. The building’s recognizable rooftop cupola can also be reserved for marriage proposals and weddings.

The building’s transformation from a state of neglect to a vital addition to Michigan Avenue and Wacker Drive was made possible by developer Oxford Capital Group. Reaping a handsome return on its investment, the Chicago-based firm sold the unopened LondonHouse just last month to a German investor for $315 million. The sale price — a record among Windy City hotels — is a clear indication that despite concerns over a potential slow-down, Chicago’s hospitality segment is still strong.