Oct 20, 2016
Take advantage of the corporate facilities at these business hotels in Chicago. By C.A. Lewis.
Chicago prides itself on being straightforward. From the layout of the city streets (a grid that makes logic the only essential tool for getting from A to B) to its business dinner of choice – a juicy steak, served up in one of the city’s still-thriving steakhouses – “the city that works” makes it easy to get things done.
Chicago’s central business district, the Loop, contains much of the city’s business culture within a four-square-kilometre rectangle, intersected by the “L” train network. Traffic, though formidable during rush hours, is less congested than in New York or Los Angeles and, despite concerns about crime, locals and tourists who exercise typical urban precautions remain as safe as in any American city.
Chicago’s renowned architecture is a point of civic pride in a landscape shaped by cutthroat real estate deals. A recent example is Trump Tower: in 2009, the soaring silver building took its place as a well-liked addition to the city, only to spark controversy five years later when Donald Trump attached an enormous illuminated “Trump” sign to its side. Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel made national headlines when he called the sign “tasteless” and introduced city ordinances to limit future signage.
Political uproar, legend has it, was the source of the nickname “Windy City”. But politics isn’t the only thing that keeps the city lively. A growing tech sector, corporate headquarters, such as Boeing, and thriving financial markets are complemented by one of the country’s hottest restaurant scenes, design-forward hotels and the natural beauty of the vast lakefront. Here’s a guide to put you in the Loop.
Chicago Athletic Association
A former private club, the CAA was reopened last year as a luxury boutique hotel to huge local fanfare. A cross between loving restoration and reinvention, the design maintains a vintage sports theme and clubby atmosphere while injecting fresh details. The inviting lobby has a huge fireplace in its centre; games tables and two bars make this a fun spot to host colleagues for drinks, dinner or a game of pool. ￼
Business facilities: Three boardrooms with state-of-the-art audiovisual equipment. Larger events take place in the club’s original basketball court.
Wi-fi: Free throughout
Food and wine: Cindy’s is a rooftop restaurant with an American menu, inspired cocktails and a lot of buzz. Milk Room, a coffee house by day, transforms into a tiny “speakeasy” at night. For burgers and hot dogs, try Shake Shack.
Fitness and wellbeing: The 24-hour fitness centre offers personal training and private group sessions on request.
Run route: Head north to Randolph Street then east along the edge of Millennium Park to the Lakefront Trail. Turn right to go south along the lake; return west on Monroe through the park, a loop of more than four kilometres.
12 South Michigan Avenue, Chicago
The Langham Chicago
Occupying the first 13 floors of architect Mies van der Rohe’s final work, the 1973 IBM Building, The Langham offers a chance to appreciate the city’s architectural heritage while enjoying the benefits of a modern luxury hotel. Cross one of the many river bridges to reach the Loop (pausing in the centre to enjoy a view that locals cherish) or head to the busy River North neighbourhood, which is home to some of the city’s best restaurants and bars.
Business facilities: The hotel’s Club level has a lounge with workstations and a library as well as two hours’ use of a private boardroom. Events specialists can assist in setting up meetings.
Wi-fi: Free throughout
Food and wine: Flagship restaurant Travelle serves contemporary American cuisine in a Mid-century-style setting that feels refined, not stuffy. There are lovely views from tables on the river side and from the bar area.
Fitness and wellbeing: The main brag here is a 20-metre pool with views of the river. There’s a very well-equipped gym, personal trainers and a luxury spa.
Run route: Cross the bridge at State Street and hit the Chicago Riverwalk on the south bank for a scenic four-kilometre stretch of smooth, wide pavement.
330 North Wabash Avenue, Chicago
Built in 1929 as the Medinah Athletic Club, the InterContinental is a straight-up business hotel that provides a peek into Prohibition-era history. On top of the building is a golden dome, originally designed as a dock for dirigibles. Dive into history, literally, in the famed hotel pool preserved in its flapper-era glamour, right down to a Neptune fountain and fish-scale windows. The hotel is easily accessible from the business district and the Michigan Avenue shopping strip.
Business facilities: A 24-hour business centre and a FedEx print-and-ship facility are available in the lobby, with round-the-clock access for guests.
Wi-fi: Fee-based wi-fi packages are available.
Food and wine: Opt for the lobby-level Eno wine bar or Michael Jordan’s Steak House over the more standard-issue hotel restaurant. But beware the prices at Jordan’s – superior meals can be found for roughly the same price nearby. Directly across the street, for instance, is the award-winning Purple Pig, a deservedly crowded wine bar with well-executed bistro fare.
Fitness and wellbeing: The health club is small but the magnificent pool promises a truly original swimming experience. Massages and other services are offered at the adjacent spa.
Run route: Make an early-morning exit via the hotel’s side door and take off, heading east down Illinois Street all the way to the end, where Navy Pier extends into Lake Michigan’s blue waters. Stop to admire the city from the tip of the pier before heading back – a round trip that’s just under four kilometres.
505 North Michigan Avenue, Chicago
The Peninsula Chicago
A-list celebrities and C-suite executives are likely to be found at Chicago’s Peninsula. And if your goals for a business trip include entertaining guests in a hushed, high-end restaurant, meeting for coffee in a bustling streetside café or sinking into one of the city’s best spas post-presentation, “The Pen” is the place. Located in the centre of Michigan Avenue’s shopping district, the hotel has hosted Jennifer Aniston (who visited boutiques like Marlowe, a block away) and Beyoncé, among others.
Business facilities: There’s a business centre for guest use, with audiovisual equipment and meeting rooms in many sizes.
Wi-fi: Free throughout
Food and wine: The hotel’s Shanghai Terrace combines Cantonese and Shanghainese cuisines, served in a jewel box of a dining room off the main lobby. At street level, Pierrot Gourmet is frequented by locals and travellers alike for coffee, breakfast and lunch.
Fitness and wellbeing: The Peninsula Spa is popular, not just for over-the-top treatments like the Khushali Reviving Signature Journey but also for one of the best pedicures in town. The fitness centre has 30 free classes each week and the pool is soaked in natural light via floor-to-ceiling windows.
Run route: Head north up Michigan Avenue to window-shop while you work out, picking up the Lakefront Trail at Oak Street (a bit more than half a kilometre) to extend your run along some of the city’s favourite beaches.
108 East Superior Street, Chicago
SEE ALSO: Our writeup on The Peninsula Chicago