River North’s Well Street has been on fire when it comes to recent development. But mixed in among the new luxury apartment towers is an unlikely story of adaptive reuse: the repositioning of the old 1910’s Olympia Building from run-down single room occupancy (SRO) apartments to a boutique limited-service hotel known as Found Chicago.
Self-described as affordable lodging “for the modern explorer,” the new establishment at 613 N. Wells hopes to attract young backpackers, business professionals, and everyone in between with rates starting at $24 per night. Found Chicago celebrated its soft open this week, following a nearly 20-month-long renovation process.
Aside from the addition of a new entrance canopy, changes to the building’s exterior are subtle and focus on emphasizing existing features such as the Chicago style bay windows. The remodel removed the building’s old front-mounted fire escape, allowing the restored cast iron and tin details to take center stage.
“The intent was to not get in the way of the building,” said George Sorich of NORR, the project’s local architect of record, when exterior work began in 2016.
Far less subtle is the complete transformation of the Olympia Building’s interior. Guests step into a ground floor space described by architect John Sofio of West Hollywood-based Built Inc. as a “new vintage vibe,” similar to what a traveler might find in a boutique hotel on New York’s lower east side.
“It’s more lounge than lobby,” Sofio tells Curbed Chicago. “It’s a place to hang out.” Design features include a herringbone floor, dark blue wall tiles, brass accents, and built-in niches displaying various art objects. Like Chicago’s Talbot and Viceroy hotels, Found reinforces the “lounge first” approach by pushing the check-in desks further back in the space.
Consistent with the hotel’s plan to cater to the budget-minded “millennial nomad” traveler, Found Chicago’s 60 guest rooms are quite cozy and relatively low on frills. The color and material palette is restrained, making use of dark carpeting and walnut wood in its doors, beds, and writing desks. Unlike the SRO it old replaces, every room features its own private bathroom decked out in white marble.
Nine of the rooms are shared, offering bunked beds that can be had for less than $30 a night during off-peak times. Similar to a hostel—though some hoteliers including the Found team are shying away from that term—communal lodging is growing in popularity as the hospitality industry adapts to the disruptors like Airbnb.
The shared room concept was recently tried at other recent Chicago hotels such as the Fieldhouse Jones, the Freehand, and the Hollander. Meanwhile new projects such as River North’s soon-to-open Moxy Hotel and the freshly permitted Toyoko Inn near Union Station illustrate a move towards smaller, affordably priced rooms.
Found Chicago guests opting for private accommodations will still have a chance to experience the kind of social interactions enjoyed by their communal counterparts thanks to a dedicated guest lounge. Located in the hotel’s basement, the gathering space features multiple couches, an eclectic mix of 1970s-looking decor, and old school board games.
River North locals will have a few reasons to check out Found in the form of its trio of upcoming food and beverage offerings. The hotel’s ground floor will eventually house Mason, an American restaurant featuring both a vibe and menu inspired by classic steakhouse. It will be joined by an adjacent espresso bar dubbed Mason&Mason.
Blind Dragon, a speakeasy-like karaoke bar and lounge with exsting locations in Los Angeles, Dubai, and Scottsdale, Arizona, will open in Found’s basement. The Chicago edition of the bar will feature a Chinese-restaurant-meets-Tiki atmosphere, three private karaoke rooms, and an Asian-inspired cocktail menu.
Although the restaurant spaces were not deemed “photo ready” at the time of our tour, Found’s food and beverage program sounds like its worth a return trip. According to Eater Chicago, the hotel will be ready to welcome its first diners—and Karaoke fanatics—by late May/early June.
The newly-launched Found Chicago project is a joint venture between Found Hotels, real estate investment firm Hawkins Way Capital, and hospitality specialists the h.wood Group. It is the first of several Found brand hotels expected to soon debut in markets including Boston, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.
“The development team picked Chicago as a great jumping off point for the brand—more so than New York,” added Sofio. “The city has a solid footprint in the center of the country and River North is one of its most exciting and evolving neighborhoods. Looking at Wells Street, you can see all the new buildings going up. We wanted to be part of that energy.”
- Found Chicago [Official website]
- Old Olympia Building SRO to see new life as boutique hotel [Curbed Chicago]
- Chicago’s Getting a Karaoke Lounge With Locations in LA and Dubai [Eater Chicago]