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Gensler-Designed Hotel to Bolster Chicago as Top Convention Destination

Groundbreaking for the Marriott Marquis Chicago Hotel at McCormick Place took place on July 28, 2015. Image © Gensler

July 28, 2015 marked the groundbreaking of the Marriott Marquis Chicago Hotel at McCormick Place. This project represents a major economic engine for Chicago and will provide much needed additional hotel rooms for convention center attendees. The hotel will create thousands of jobs and inject millions of dollars into the local economy, and Gensler is proud to be playing a strong role in this project.

The new 40-story Hotel, designed by Gensler, will be the only Marriott Marquis in the Metropolitan Chicago area. It will include specialty suites, 90,000 square feet of meeting room space including two 25,000 square-foot ballrooms, a great room-style restaurant and bar as well as a Marketplace food court that will feature local food and retail entrepreneurs.

At the official groundbreaking event today, after introducing dignitaries including Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Marriott International CEO Arne Sorenson, Third Ward Chicago Alderman Pat Dowell, and others, MPEA CEO Lori Healey said: “I would … like to say a special thank you to the Gensler design team, who provided us with such a beautiful hotel, and we can’t wait until it’s built.”

In the press release announcing the groundbreaking, Arne Sorenson, President and CEO of Marriott International, added the following about the hotel: “This project is a bold reflection of the new direction of the Marriott Hotels brand. The Marriott Marquis Chicago will feature all of Marriott’s industry-leading innovations, including Mobile Guest Services, interactive Greatroom, mobile check-in, and our impactful Meetings Imagined program. Connected to the nation’s largest convention center, the hotel will be ideally situated to host business travelers as well as visitors exploring Chicago’s magnificent attractions, including Lake Michigan, the museum and downtown business district.”

Currently, McCormick Place is the number one convention destination in the United States, yet the limited number of local accommodations, the lack of a vibrant walkable neighborhood and nightlife (traits that meeting planners find increasingly desirable ) make it less competitive for mid-size event business. The addition of the headquarters hotel and event center, along with the planned redevelopment of the area, will make a monumental difference by attracting more business to the area, ultimately bringing in more revenue for the city: The completed Entertainment District is projected to bring in an estimated $250,000,000 of additional spend each year, which would equate to more than 2,500 permanent jobs for workers in the surrounding neighborhoods.

The groundbreaking ceremonies included appearances by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Marriott International CEO Arne Sorenson, and Third Ward Chicago Alderman Pat Dowell. Image © Gensler

In December 2014, Gensler was selected from an international field of architects for the original master plan and design of the Marriott Marquis Chicago Hotel. The simple yet powerful design of the hotel will manifest into an iconic building and engage the city of Chicago as a beacon on the South Side. As the tallest building in the area, the hotel will create a unique and visible connection to the Loop and the city to the north. High-end curtain wall systems will reinforce a conceptual “wrapping skin element,” and a diagonal façade gesture leads one’s eye to the roof line and emphasizes the project’s reference to and from the central skyline. The massing of the glass tower is designed in a way to be anchored at the base with a podium that relates in scale to the existing local context, while the overall form rises into a dramatic peak that symbolizes the heart of the McCormick Place campus. The 1.125 million square foot Marriott Marquis will seek LEED certification and features 1,200 rooms; an indoor/outdoor lobby lounge that engages the community; two elevated terraces opening to Cermak; a grand ballroom with views to the city skyline; a junior ballroom; a conference center; and a flexible marketplace along the north façade connecting the interior of the hotel with the surrounding neighborhood.

The hotel project also includes two conditioned glass pedestrian bridges connecting the hotel to the existing West Hall of the Convention Center as well as the planned Event Center to create a seamless circulation path among the key buildings within the McCormick Place campus. The historic renovation of the American Book Company Building will house the hotel’s meeting rooms, administrative program, and additional ground-level retail space. This adaptive reuse preserves local historic landmark façades, while breathing new life into a building constructed in 1912 that in its day thrived as the leading publisher of text books.

The city of Chicago has long worked toward a renaissance on the south side, with efforts in the Bronzeville, Woodlawn, Douglas, and Near South Side neighborhoods; most recently, as part of the Chicago 2016 Olympic bid, the Olympic Village was planned to be located on a parking lot south of McCormick Place that resides in the Douglas community area and the Near South Side. Though much of the Near South Side consisted largely of railroad tracks and interchanges, housing developments and McCormick Place started construction in the neighborhood in the 1960s. Today, the Near South Side neighborhood contains some of the most well-known structures in Chicago: the museum campus, which includes Soldier Field, the Field Museum, the Shedd Aquarium and the Adler Planetarium; Northerly Island; and McCormick Place, which today provides approximately 3 million enclosed square feet of convention and exhibit space. With its civic development, the proximity to Chinatown, and recent residential expansion, the neighborhood remains underserved.

Gensler worked on a similar project in the early 2000’s in downtown Los Angeles. When it was conceived a decade earlier, AEG, L.A. LIVE was to be the heart of a Downtown revitalization that would provide a vibrant hub for community and celebration. Today, L.A. LIVE comprises four million square feet and is a recognized center for sports and entertainment with amenities to support the region and guests from every corner of the world. Gensler was responsible for the design of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel & Residences and JW Marriott Hotel and Conference Center, as well as the award-winning Club Nokia performance venue.

Steven Harrell is an Architect at Gensler and Hospitality Practice Area Leader for the North Central region. He has worked in hospitality design for 15 years the last 3 years at Gensler. He brings extensive experience in design and delivery and belief in an integrated approach to successfully lead teams through all manner of hospitality projects. Contact him at steven_harrell@gensler.com.

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