Photos: Inside Wicker Park's New Boutique Hotel & Social Media-Minded Hostel
By Jessica Mlinaric in Arts & Entertainment on Nov 23, 2016 4:41PM
After nearly four years of restoration, two new boutique hotel properties are due to open in Wicker Park on Nov. 30.
The Robey (2018 W. North Ave.) and The Hollander (2022 W. North Ave.) are poised to turn the already-lively intersection of Milwaukee, North, and Damen avenues into a hub for savvy tourists. On Tuesday, Chicagoist toured the design-minded spaces, which have something for hotel guests and locals alike, including a rooftop lounge. Here are our observations:
The Robey looms 12 floors above the neighborhood in Northwest Tower, a 1929 Art Deco landmark building. The hotel's name pays homage to local history, as Robey Street was the original name of Damen Avenue. Building restoration has highlighted period charm throughout the former office building, including the Art Deco lobby, bas relief sculptures repurposed from the exterior to the rooftop cupola, and original fixtures like hallway mail chutes and guest room doors.
The 69 guest rooms, designed by Nicolas Schuybroek Architects and Marc Merckx Interiors, offer contemporary, light-filled spaces with incredible neighborhood views. The clean, neutral interiors are sophisticated without feeling overdesigned, balancing glass, chrome, and timber elements. Despite being perched near the Blue Line, the sound of the train is barely perceptible inside the rooms. Guest rooms start at $175 and feature complimentary Wi-Fi, personal care amenities by Le Labo, 400 thread-count sheets, and signature soft denim robes & felt slippers.
The hotel's first floor will feature Café Robey, a French-American restaurant led by Chef Bradley Stelling. Hotel guests and locals are welcome to head to the second floor lounge for coffee and conversation.
The aptly named Up & Up rooftop lounge is exclusive to hotel guests, but locals may visit by appointment depending on availability. The 35-seat lounge interior was inspired by classic American art, recalling Edward Hopper and Frank Lloyd Wright. Every couch offers a view, but the compact outdoor terrace offers perhaps the best perspective of Chicago. Unlike downtown's skyscrapers, the Robey isn't competing for height in this part of town. The rooftop's jaw-dropping panorama spans Wicker Park and Bucktown, the Blue Line snaking below, and Chicago's downtown skyline. For those looking for an even more exclusive experience, the distinctive cupola has been refitted as a private lounge. A rooftop pool will be opening in spring 2017.
Adjacent to the Robey, the Hollander will provide an upscale hostel experience with a social emphasis. The five-story building was constructed in 1905 and served as the Hollander Fireproof Warehouse. The former storage space has been outfitted with 12 private rooms (from $125) and eight shared rooms (from $45).
The guest rooms play up the building's industrial past with concrete walls, exposed ducts, and minimal steel and wood furnishings. Rooms include bunk beds, en-suite bathrooms, personal lockers with charging outlets, personal lamps and USB ports. Televisions and refrigerators are included in private rooms. The property's approach to budget-conscious travel feels like a considerable upgrade from the typical hostel.
The Hollander is being billed as the first "social stay" in hospitality. To unpack that, guests are invited to share their Instagram account with others who will be staying simultaneously and connect during their stay. The Hollander aims to create a community via social media where the digitally-connected travelers can meet and share their adventures.
To that end, the Hollander's lobby encourages engagement. Guests can socialize at the Metric Coffee bar while waiting for their laundry and bike repair or rental at Banker Supply Co. A communal oak table and wraparound benches provide cozy places to take advantage of the free Wi-Fi.
The Robey and the Hollander are poised to bring an innovative take on adaptive reuse to Wicker Park and Chicago's hospitality landscape. As Grupo Habita managing partner Carlos Couturier told Chicagoist, "The Robey is the past meets the future. The Hollander is the present meets the future."