For the first time in its 100-year history, Chicago’s Navy Pier may be the site of a new hotel. As part of Centennial Vision, a multiphase redevelopment of the Pier, the city and Chicago-based hotel management company First Hospitality Group, Inc. announced plans for a 200-room hotel.
Heading the preliminary design is Chicago-based KOO. Led by Jackie Koo, the office is also responsible for the Wit Hotel in the North Loop and the Inn at Lincoln Park. The new privately funded hotel is expected to cost roughly $90 million. According to a press release, financing has already been secured, and construction is expected to begin in 2017.
The preliminary design of the hotel includes five levels of hotel rooms looking out over the south side of the Pier. Located near the Pier’s east end, each room would include a balcony and bay window.
The announcement coincides with events surrounding the Pier’s 100th anniversary. The most visible of these events is the opening of the new 196-foot-tall Centennial Ferris Wheel. The new wheel replaces a smaller version, which has been moved to Branson, Missouri. Like the last wheel, the new ride will have light shows coordinated with the Pier’s regular weekly and holiday fireworks shows. At a cost of $26.5 million, the Centennial Ferris Wheel is 50 feet taller, and can hold 150 more passengers than its predecessor. Erecting the 525-ton wheel presented unique problems, which included a limit on crane size due to the parking garage below and the weight limits of the Pier. Chicago’s inclement weather also played a role, as wind speeds and temperatures on the Pier are often much more extreme than in the city.
Along with the Centennial Wheel, the Polk Bros Park and a reconfiguration of the general park and entry roadways have been completed. These projects were all part of Phase I of the Pier’s redevelopment. Also nearing full completion is the Wave Wall designed by New York–based James Corner Field Operations as part of its master plan for the entire Pier. New renderings have also been released for additions to the existing Shakespeare Theater on the Pier. These additions, designed by Chicago-based Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture, are expected to be complete by fall 2017.
Navy Pier is considered one of the largest tourist attractions in the Midwest, with over nine million visitors a year. The Pier was conceived as part of Daniel Burnham’s Chicago Plan. In its 100-year history it has been, among other things, a municipal pier, a naval training area, a school of architecture (now the School of Architecture at the University of Illinois at Chicago), and has seen varying levels of popularity and disrepair. The now-packed 50-acre pier and this new redevelopment are playing a large role in the mayor’s goal of bringing 55 million annual tourists to Chicago by 2020.