Presiding over North Michigan Avenue in the statuesque Water Tower Place shopping hub, The Ritz-Carlton, Chicago has served as a staple of the Windy City’s tony Magnificent Mile for more than 40 years. But less well known is this bit of insider information: Despite its name, the Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star hotel wasn’t officially a part of the Ritz-Carlton chain until last August. (Its new status means, among other things, that you can make reservations and use rewards to book rooms on the Ritz-Carlton website.)
Once it became known that the hotel was being welcomed into the family, the travel industry expected a few changes would be on the horizon — and that’s exactly what has happened.
During a recent visit, we were able to sneak a peek at areas within the Chicago hotel that are being refreshed and rebuilt. These renovations are being rolled out in two phases. The first will likely be completed by the beginning of summer; the second will begin in early 2017.
Here’s a quick rundown on what to expect from the first part of the refashioning:
New Ritz-Carlton Club Lounge
The new 2,600-square-foot club lounge will have floor-to-ceiling windows that peer out over the cityscape and Lake Michigan. Yes, the exclusive perks synonymous with the Ritz-Carlton Club Lounge will be offered (all-day refreshments, elegant breakfasts, a dedicated concierge) as well as unique features, like a clubby library that can be rented for private events.
The space is being designed by San Francisco firm Bamo, which has worked on Four Seasons Resort Dubai at Jumeirah Beach, Rosewood Sand Hill and other impressive addresses. Expect warm walnut hardwood floors, clean-lined walnut cabinets and a color palette of blues, golds and browns.
New fitness center
While the fitness center will remain on the same floor — one below the main lobby — it will take over a new space. The benefit? It will be larger with 2,700 square feet and have a much more airy, open feel to it. (The current center is a bit of a windowless box.)
The new spot will have floor-to-ceiling windows that provide views of the lake and Navy Pier, as well as a studio space for yoga and other classes. New exercise equipment will be added to fill out the bigger area, too.
The luxury hotel’s 90 suites are getting a facelift as well. Bamo has its hand in room renovations. Suites will be updated, particularly the bathrooms, which have a minimal, modern look with white vanities, gray stone floors and a separate toilet. And the guest corridors outside the suites and every other room are getting a refresh.
The spa, lobby and beyond
The spa, like the gym, is located one floor below the lobby, which is plenty convenient except for one thing: the elevators from the rooms do not go directly to that floor. Currently, guests wanting to reach the spa or fitness center must first go to the lobby and then walk down a short flight of stairs.
New elevator banks are being installed so you can skip this step and arrive directly to the spa and fitness center from your guest room corridor. No more spa robes in the lobby.
Phase two of the renovations — to start and finish in 2017 — will focus on the spa and meetings/event space upgrades.