Chicago has always been known for its vibrant and diverse neighborhoods, from the West Loop, an industrial district that transformed in the ’80s with the creation of Oprah’s Harpo Studios, to the former artists’ hub Wicker Park. Today, these historic communities are teeming with new hotels and meeting venues.
Today’s West Loop is home to the Google Chicago headquarters and McDonald’s massive new corporate HQ, which launched in summer 2018 in the footprint of the former Harpo Studios. The neighborhood is also booming with new hotel developments and event space, including Soho House Chicago, Freehand Chicago, ACE Hotel Chicago and, this summer, the much-anticipated Nobu Hotel Chicago, among others. “As a Chicago reporter once said, the rise of the West Loop has been largely rooted in its restaurants, and finally we have a place to sleep after filling the stomach,” says Trevor Horwell, CEO of Nobu Hospitality Group. “We are excited to be in the West Loop with some other great boutique brands and, of course, we will have done exciting venue spaces for meeting planners and guests.” But the West Loop isn’t only about hotels. Offsite Chicago, which was the first expansion of the New York City Offsite location, launched in 2012. Partner Patrick Everett has seen his business grow along with the neighborhood. “Many tech-savvy firms are moving to the West loop area and bringing in a much younger crowd,” says Everett. “The cost of living is much cheaper here when compared to San Francisco and New York City. Whether it is pitching new technology to other firms in the Chicago area or having a team strategy meeting, we have gained a lot of business as most of their meetings and events are held off-site.”
What was once a “dead zone” surrounding the massive 2.6 million-sq.-ft. McCormick Place convention center in the South Loop is now a vibrant residential neighborhood that recently saw a $650 million infusion with new hotels and the construction of Wintrust Arena. The Collection at McCormick Square is an interconnected complex that includes McCormick Place with 600,000 square feet of meeting room space, including ballrooms and theaters; the new 10,387-seat Wintrust Arena; Hyatt Regency McCormick Place; and Marriott Marquis Chicago, all joined by sky bridges. “McCormick Place flourishes when the neighborhood around us is growing,” says Lori Healey, CEO of the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, owner of McCormick Place. “In fact, we developed an app, Marty By McCormick Square, to help our guests connect to many restaurants, bars and cultural offerings, as well as help those of us who live and work stay current with the new developments.” In addition, Hilton, along with First Hospitality Group Inc., recently opened its first tribranded property, including Hilton Garden Inn Chicago McCormick Place, Hampton Inn Chicago McCormick Place and Home2 Suites by Hilton Chicago McCormick Place.
The evolution of the Wicker Park neighborhood, located about 4 miles northwest of the Magnificent Mile, started around 1990 when it became a popular and affordable neighborhood for local artists. Bolstered by the now-defunct Around the Coyote art festival and a handful of hip restaurants and coffee shops that drew visitors from around the city, the neighborhood grew and an explosion of new residential buildings followed. In late 2016, the opening of The Robey gave the neighborhood another huge boost. Located in a historic Art Deco flatiron building that opened as an office building in 1929, the hotel provides a unique destination for out-of-town visitors and meeting planners looking to immerse themselves in a hip, neighborhood vibe. “Located at the crossroads of Wicker Park and Bucktown’s spirited big intersection, The Robey allows guests to have a different experience,” says General Manager Santiago Leon de la Vega. “They can visit the shops on Damen, check out one of the many bars and restaurants on Milwaukee, or take a walk on the 2.7-mile elevated greenway and path that runs east to west on the northwest side of Chicago. The Robey welcomes guests to experience Chicago in a completely new context.”