Michigan Avenue's Hard Rock Hotel will have some playful new features but a serious name when it reopens as an independent brand next year.
Rebranding the landmark Carbide & Carbon Building takes a different approach from some other Michigan Avenue boutique hotels that have opened in recent years — such as Chicago Athletic Association on South Michigan Avenue and LondonHouse to the north — that took names from their buildings' colorful history. Addams won a Nobel Peace Prize in 1931, two years after the 40-story Carbide & Carbon Building was completed, but has no connection to the building.
"The Hull House was a gathering place for people of diverse backgrounds to gather, eat and debate, much like a hotel," said Carrie Meghie, a principal at Grosse Pointe, Mich.-based Becker Ventures, which owns the building. "It seems like a great nod to Jane Addams and her contributions to the city."
Details of the new name and rebranding come more than a month after Becker Ventures announced plans to end its affiliation with the music-themed Hard Rock chain after 13 years and open a new concept managed by Chicago-based hotel management firm Aparium Hotel Group.
While Addams was known for her work with the poor, the rebranded St. Jane Chicago looks to find a niche just below the city's highest-priced hotels, said Aparium Chief Operating Officer Kevin Robinson, who founded Aparium with Mario Tricoci in 2011.
"The intention is to fill the void between the most upscale hotels and the level below that, between a four-diamond and five-diamond property," Robinson said. "We want to do that in a comfortable, low-key, timeless way."
Aparium's Robinson and Tricoci worked on the development of the Elysian Hotel — now a Waldorf Astoria — in the Gold Coast. Aparium owns and manages hotels in cities including Detroit, Minneapolis, New Orleans and Milwaukee. Aparium will not have an ownership stake in St. Jane.
The Hard Rock Hotel's last day of business will be Nov. 30, and the St. Jane Chicago will open by late spring 2018 under the new name and concept, Robinson said.
Changes will include replacing the Hard Rock memorabilia shop with a grab-and-go coffee shop and restaurant that opens into a seating area in the lobby, as well as a new restaurant-bar to take the place of Chuck's: A Kerry Simon Kitchen just south of the hotel at street level, Robinson said. The yet-to-be-named replacement for Chuck's is expected to include a microbrewery, he said.
Changes to the hotel will include a reduction to 363 rooms, from 381 today, and upgraded rooms, Robinson said. There will be a total of 33 rooms on floors 25 and above with higher-end finishes and pricing. Guests on those floors, called the Tower at St. Jane, and other customers who pay a premium will have access to a new 24th-floor lounge and outdoor space.
Event space on lower floors totaling 11,000 square feet, and including a large outdoor space, will be redesigned and used for weddings and other events, Robinson said.
Jamaican restaurant Mr. Brown's Lounge, which has an entrance along the Wacker Place side of the building, will remain open and will not be affected by renovations to the hotel, according to Aparium.
Meghie declined to say how much Becker Ventures expects to invest on the redevelopment. Becker is already in talks with lenders to refinance the building later this year, which will help cover renovation costs, she said.
Becker plans to contribute portions of the hotel's revenue to charities, and intends to host many philanthropic events in the new space, Meghie said.
Causes backed by the hotel's owner will include the Jackson Chance Foundation, which Meghie and her husband created after their infant son spent most of his 10 months hospitalized with a lung condition that led to his death in 2012. The foundation covers parking costs for parents of sick children at Lurie Children's Hospital, and later this year plans to expand the program to help parents with children in neonatal intensive care at Northwestern's Prentice Women's Hospital.