The new, renovated Ritz Charlton Chicago debuts this week after 18 months and $100 million, capping off the biggest transformation in the history of this elder statesman of the city’s luxury hotels. The lobby bar, once tucked away in a corner as if it were an afterthought, has been elevated to a focal point. It’s now a glowing beacon of copper, marble and geometric-shaped overhead lighting reminiscent of modern Italian design from the ’30s and ’40s.
Peter Simoncelli, the general manager of the Ritz-Carlton property, said: “What this hotel looks like today is nothing like it was before.” The 434-room hotel has gone through a series of “soft” refreshes since opening in 1975. But this final phase of renovation marks the first true overhaul of the high-profile public areas. The guiding principle was to give the Ritz-Carlton a better sense of place, weaving in nods to the city’s status as a pioneer of modern architecture and creating more harmony between the building’s interior and exterior.
As it is the hallmark of the brand, 2,600-square-foot Ritz-Carlton Club Lounge was added last year on the 15th floor. Access to this hotel-within-a-hotel, featuring complimentary food and drinks among other perks is open to all Ritz-Carlton guests for an extra $200 a day. Overnight rates at the Ritz-Carlton can vary widely, but they typically start around $399.
Other first-phase renovation projects included upgrading the bathrooms in all 90 suites and refashioning the fitness center, making it bigger and giving it views of Navy Pier. The old workout facility was more like a windowless box.
As we look at the dining side, chef Greg Elliott joined the Ritz-Carlton in June after doing stints at Remington’s and the W Chicago Lakeshore hotel. Elliott developed the menu for Torali, the hotel’s new signature restaurant. On the dinner menu, there is pasta made in-house, seafood and steak, including a $120 porterhouse for two.
The final phase of renovation called for shuttering the hotel for nearly six weeks, a closure that started right after a wedding on New Year’s Eve. The hotel hasn’t hosted a wedding reception since. The next one is slated for the end of the month in the newly expanded grand ballroom.
That ballroom’s chandelier, consisting of more than 400,000 crystals still remains. The old fountain’s pair of bronze herons may survive as well. Simoncelli concluded that “We’re working with the Park District to place them across the street in Seneca Park. We thought the best thing we could do was at least keep them in the neighborhood.”