since the Venetian Gothic- style 11-story Chicago Athletic Club building was completed in time for the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893, it has been considered an architectural icon. Between 1893 and 2007, the building, located in the Historic Michigan Boulevard District, operated as an elite private men’s club. However, it closed down in 2007.
In 2012, Geolo Capital and AJ Capital Partners announced they would purchase the building and turn it into a hotel. Work began in 2013, and the renovation was completed in 2015. The 225,000-square-foot building is now the 241-room Chicago Athletic Association Hotel, with three restaurants, two large banquet rooms, retail shops, a game room, a basketball court, a fencing court and more.
Capping it all off is Cindy’s, a rooftop bar, which has become such a popular destination in Chicago that it now has a waiting list.
“It’s indoors, but has an outdoor look due to a dome, and features a lot of special lighting,” said Jerry Hughes, project manager for electrical contractor Block Electric, Niles, Ill.
The high-performance building features entirely new electrical, plumbing and mechanical systems. According to Hughes, the work was unique in many ways.
“Block Electric worked closely with the Landmark Association to restore original light fixtures to their exact condition from when they were built more than a century ago,” he said. “This allowed us to work with different subcontractors, such as Arc Historic Products, who assisted in the restoration of these fixtures.”
The most difficult of this project’s many challenges was dealing with the existing architecture.
“It was an old building, so nothing was square,” Hughes said. “Every time we’d go into a room, it would be off by sometimes up to 8 inches.”
There were structural problems, as well, including some loose walls.
“You’d tap on some brick walls, and they would just fall in,” Hughes said. “They had to be taken down and rebuilt.”
Hughes credits Bulley & Andrews, the general contractor, for its assistance.
Despite the challenges, Hughes said the efforts were worth it.
“It was really rewarding to see the outcome,” he said. “It is an incredible-looking hotel, the most unique I have ever seen.”