Virgin Hotels opened its first property Thursday in the heart of the Loop, a culmination of a long-running renovation of a Chicago landmark.
The 26-story Virgin Hotels Chicago consists of 250 guests rooms, starting at $209 a night, including 40 single-room suites and two penthouse suites. Virgin Hotels CEO Raul Leal said he expected between 50 to 60 patrons the first night.
Located at 203 N. Wabash Ave., the hotel occupies what was the Old Dearborn Bank Building.
"We did something really special for the first guest," Leal said. "We had the entire team waiting in the lobby for them when they checked in, and we gave them, for the rest of their life, a place to stay on Jan. 15."
The hotel's centerpiece is its second-floor Commons Club, open to guests and the public, marked by a contemporary-style bar, a full kitchen, a stylized library with curated books and local memorabilia and a lounge area.
Virgin Group founder Richard Branson announced the creation of Virgin Hotels in late 2010, with the Miami-based company buying the Chicago building in 2011 for about $14 million. Refurbishing the historic art deco building took longer than expected as officials worked with the Commission on Chicago Landmarks.
The boutique inn has retained several of the building's original features, including a 1920s oak cigar bar, ornate brass elevator doors in the lobby and an elaborate tiled ceiling that was hidden when the Virgin Group bought it.
"We wanted to take the elements that Virgin makes fun, a little modern and contemporary, and blend it into something into some of the other features: the historic ceiling and lobby," Leal said.
"We was a different it was something different, because everyone expected something modern, but this is our surprise."
Four other dining options at the hotel will open between February and April: a ground-floor eatery called Ms. Ricky's, a 23-hour diner and a rooftop bar and lounge.
Virgin Hotels expects to open 20 more locations by 2025 with its second slated for Nashville this year and third for New York in 2017.