InterContinental Chicago Gets a Fashion-Forward Renovation

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Historic hotels can be a treasure but can also pose a problem: the fine line between ‘classic’ and ‘dated.’ –Andrew Bender, Forbes

Last week, Andrew Bender, business travel blogger for Forbes, reported that the InterContinental Chicago had an elegant solution to this problem: two towers with two completely different design concepts.

The first wing, the Historic Tower, was built in 1929 as the Medinah Athletic Club, “and it’s been a landmark on the Magnificent Mile ever since,” Bender said. The wing’s classic architecture and decor live up to its name: lion statues in the lobby, the high-rise pool and plenty of other little details. Bender wrote, “Although its 315 European-inspired rooms are regularly renovated (most recently in 2010), a sweeping design change would probably cause insurrection among guests who’ve been staying here for generations.”

The other wing, the Grand Tower, was built in 1961. And before the tower’s renovation was completed last month, the look and feel was more “dated” compared to the Historic Tower’s classic feel. “Gone from its 477 rooms are relics of the Mad Men era,” Bender said. The newly renovated Grand Tower, which is located on the corner of Grand Avenue in Chicago, features brighter lighting and fashion-forward colors and fabrics. Across the lobby is Michael Jordan’s Steak House and the casual, yet chic, wine bar, Eno. The InterContinental Chicago upped its tech features, too, with outlets and USB ports everywhere and a giant video wall behind the front desk that streams a rotating selection of live images of streetscapes outside. “And should you wish to return to the early 20th century,” Bender added, “you don’t have to give up the comforts of the 21st to tour the Historic Tour. An iPod-based audio tour at the concierge desk lets you explore its history at your leisure.”

The renovation is also making the hotel greener. The drapes, signage and headboards were locally sourced, waffle-patterned robes replaced terrycloth (they require less energy to wash), there are low flow toilets in the bathrooms and guests can even charge their electric vehicle in the garage. The hotel plans to roll back utility use by 20% within the next five years. In fact, the InterContinental Chicago has become the first hotel in Chicago to receive an Energy Star rating.

To see a slide show for before and after photos, check out Bender’s original Forbes article.

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