Chicago’s Cultural Mile is officially home to a newly renovated and rebranded landmark property. Overlooking the city’s famed Michigan Avenue, the new Hotel Essex is bringing fresh buzz to the South Loop space that was once the site of the historic Essex Inn. You may have already heard all about the hotel’s incredible views and mod design, but Hotel Essex has plenty more perks to offer planners and guests alike.
Prime spot: Hotel Essex is actually part of a mixed-use lifestyle project from Oxford Capital Group (the pro team behind properties like The Godfrey Hotel and Hotel Julian). While the hotel sits adjacent to its luxury residential counterpart, Essex on the Park, planners will find a perk in the partnership with access to the SX Sky Bar space. Just steps away from Grant Park, the hotel is also a quick walk to major attractions like the Art Institute of Chicago, the “Bean” and the Magnificent Mile shopping district.
Full refresh: While the 274-room property may be housed in a historic landmark, the space itself has been “fully redesigned and repositioned, taking advantage of entirely new interiors and building systems across all guest rooms and public areas,” says Hotel Essex Senior Sales Manager Lucy Sharkey. The refresh includes a refurbished lobby and tech-forward amenities like Bluetooth-enabled bathroom mirrors that allow guests to stream music straight to the hidden speakers, smart fridges and an alarm clock that doubles as a wireless charging station for smartphones.
Historic homage: Amid a full redesign, the Hotel Essex team worked with a local firm, The Gettys Group, to include inspired nods to the hotel’s original mid-century design/the property’s mid-century roots. “The Gettys Group designed the hotel’s transformed interiors to bring mid-century to the 21st century, utilizing furniture styles that call back to the mid-century modern movement, while accenting those piece with updated patterns and fabrics,” says Sharkey. With vintage furnishings, large marble and geometric wooden art pieces, geometric headboards and stark aqua accents, signature 60’s décor is incorporated throughout the lobby and guest rooms to create modernized spaces with a lively touch.
The Hotel Essex also made efforts to retain and restore iconic elements of the original hotel like the building’s exterior glass and steel façade, which was built in 1961, and the well-known and loved Essex Inn rooftop signage.
Meeting and event space: Meeting and event space: Currently the Hotel Essex offers three private event spaces with the potential for a fourth by means of an air wall, with several semiprivate event spaces available as well. The Boulevard North (which accommodates 5-75 guests) and Boulevard South (which accommodates 5-30 guests) spaces both feature Grant Park views, while the hotel's Parlor space can accommodate larger groups of 10-150 guests. SX Sky Bar spaces include a lounge, which can accommodate up to 540 guests and a fifth floor space which can accommodate up to 202. All Hotel Essex event spaces include amenities such as Wi-Fi, full A/V capabilities, 85-inch screens, and catering options from SX Sky Bar.
SX Sky Bar: LM Restaurant Group’s Grant Park Bistro, a 40-seat eatery and bar specializing in French fare, can be found on the ground floor of Hotel Essex, but a quick trip to the sixth floor of Essex on the Park leads guests to a bi-level bar and lounge perfect for events, alfresco dining and dancing. Hotel guests, residential guests and the general public can nibble elevated small plates and sip on craft cocktails, says Sharkey.
The SX Sky Bar culinary program, led by chef de cuisine Christopher Suzuki, brings Californian and Asians flavors to a curated menu of sushi and shareable plates, including items like pork belly lettuce wraps with housemade kimchi and fermented pepper aioli and duck confit carnitas with avocado salsa verde and apple and radish slaw as well as signature sushi bites, such as the snapper sashimi served with dried miso dust, scallions and pickled wasabi.
With floor-to-ceiling, retractable windows, black and white contrasting geometric designs and floral fabrics, the space boasts a whimsical and decadent design with a terrace-like atmosphere. "Guests can descend a grand staircase winding down to the tech-forward dance floor, which features projection mapped lighting, while a hologram will be projected above the space’s northern bar,” says Sharkey. Better still? Planners working with Hotel Essex have SX Sky Bar at their disposal when booking meetings and events.