November 02, 2016
Few cities are able to stay on the cutting-edge of culture while preserving and showcasing local history as well as Chicago. Case in point is the new Kimpton Gray Hotel. Set in the 15-story former New York Life Building in Chicago's central Loop district, this is the Kimpton brand's fifth Chicago property (and fourth adaptive reuse project). The 293-room hotel was designed with historic fabric on the interior; as well as limestone, and granite, and terracotta on the façade, creating a striking property that embraces its history (dating back to 1894) while boasting thoroughly modern meetings offerings. These include almost 13,000 square feet of event space, including a 2,800-square-foot ballroom, and three top-notch culinary spots (the South American-infused Boleo, seasonal menus at Steadfast, and sophisticated drinks at Vol. 39).

"While Chicago has maintained a position as one of the leading destinations for meetings and groups, there is always a need to constantly reinvent and reinvigorate what the Chicago experience is in order to stay competitive," says David Whitaker, president and CEO of Choose Chicago. "In addition to new hotels that have opened in the city since January 2015 -- 14 in all -- redevelopments and new developments are under way, highlighted by the continued expansion of McCormick Place including the soon-to-open 10,000-seat event center and the 1,200-room Marriott Marquis."

Another property showcasing the best of the past and future is LondonHouse Chicago, a 452-room luxury hotel built in the former London Guarantee and Accident Building near the Chicago River -- complemented by a new 22-story Modernist tower. Its 13 event spaces range from the boardrooms to ballrooms, adding up to approximately 25,000 square feet of meeting space.

These properties join other historic venues that have become hotels, including the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel, Art Deco-style Hampton Inn Chicago Downtown, and funky Virgin Hotel Chicago (with three flexible event spaces of its own: The Manor, The Sandbox, and Founder's Room). Also recently opening their doors: Hyatt Centric The Loop Chicago as well as Loews Chicago Hotel.

Among the city's renewed spaces are the Navy Pier, celebrating its centennial by undergoing major changes to make it greener and more contemporary. Among these are a wave wall -- designed by famed architect James Corner -- offering views of Lake Michigan and the Chicago skyline, an interactive fountain, and an illuminated grand staircase. As this was the city that introduced the Ferris wheel to the world (at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition), it's also quite fitting that the Navy Pier will be unveiling a new, taller wheel as part of the celebration.