A newly remodeled 1920s building adds to Chicago’s growing list of boutique tower hotels
Apparently, Chicago has an insatiable hunger for boutique hotels in vintage Chicago skyscrapers. In 2015, the newly renovated downtown Chicago Athletic Association (CAA) became the go-to hang-out for architects during the Chicago Architecture Biennial. Virgin opened anew hotel in the 1928 Old Dearborn Bank Building; Goettsch Partners has completed the LondonHouse Hotel in the 1923 London Guarantee Building; and the 1928 Chicago Motor Club, the 1929 Carbon and Carbide Building, and the Burnham and Root–designed 1895 Reliance building have been converted into a Hampton Inn, a Hard Rock Hotel, and Kimpton Burnham Hotel, respectively. Now, another “new hotel, old building” is opening outside of this downtown cluster, to much fanfare.
The Robey hotel, named after the historic street name of what is today Damen Avenue, is located at the major intersection of Damen Avenue, North Avenue, and Milwaukee Avenue, an area called Six Points in Wicker Park. Located in a 1929 building officially known as the Northwest Tower, and more locally known as the Coyote Building, the 12-story art deco tower is the tallest building by far in the neighborhood. It is a local icon, and for decades it was the center of an annual arts festival called Around the Coyote. In the more recent past, however, the tower has laid largely empty, often on the verge of bankruptcy.
Over the last three years, the Coyote Building has been transformed with major brickwork repair, all new windows, and a flagpole and Robey flag atop the building’s cupola. Chicago-based Antunovich Associates was the architect of record on the project, with design work by Brussels offices Nicolas Schuybroek Architects and Marc Merckx Interiors. The hotel is being managed by the Mexican hoteliers Grupo Habita.
Along with the hotel, the building includes a hostel called the Hollander, three restaurants, two bars, and a small rooftop pool. The hotel itself has 69 rooms, including rooms in the sharp southeast corner with unblocked views of downtown, three miles away. The rooftop Cabana Club bar and restaurant on the roof also offers panoramic views of the city.
When the Northwest Tower was designed by Perkins, Chatten & Hammond in the 1920s, it was one of the first towers outside of Chicago’s downtown. Since then, it has remained one of the tallest to not be in the city’s center or along the lakefront. Though a handful of slightly shorter transit-oriented developments are popping up in the Robey’s vicinity, it is unlikely that it will lose its status as an icon of the near northwest side.
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