Yet another Near North Side flophouse is becoming respectable again.
The old Hotel Wacker at 111 West Huron Street is becoming the Hotel Felix . Wacker was a pretty nice place when it first opened in the 1920's, but like a lot of the city's once classy hotels, it went downhill as the neighborhood went from residential to commercial to industrial. Now that the people are back, so's the hotel, though under a different name.
The new "Felix" name isn't specific to any person. It was chosen just because it's a happy little name that sounds a little like "felicity." Inside, the building is getting a lot more than a new name.
The building is essentially being gutted and re-built on the inside. Because of this, the developers (Oxford Capital which also converted the Hotel Cass on Wabash from an S.R.O. into a Holiday Inn Express) are able to make this the first downtown hotel to achieve LEED Silver status. It does this through a number of innovations, including the use of sustainable and recycled materials when possible, low flow plumbing, compact florescent lighting throughout the property, the use of low VOC paints and carpeting, and having an employee bike room and shower to encourage them to pedal to work.
The hotel will be a "rooms box" meaning, just 225 rooms and a bar -- no conference or banquet facilities. It was gutted and re-built because if the building was torn down, modern zoning regulations would have only allowed a much smaller building to be erected in its place.
Because of its history, the building's rooms have an unusual and rather small layout. The furniture has been custom made to take every advantage of the available space.
The developers tried to have the building landmarked, but the city wouldn't go for it. It was designed by Levy and Klein, the same people behind the Majestic Theater, but that's not enough.
Look for a soft opening on March 1, 2009 to get the kinks out and a grant opening in late April.