History in hospitality

Bringing new life to the historic Roanoke Building was well worth the challenges

The Roanoke Building (also known as Lumber Exchange Building) at 11 S LaSalle Street is a Chicago Landmark, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Designed by Chicago architectural firm Holabird and Roche, completed in 1925 and adorned with Portuguese Gothic terracotta, the Roanoke boasts magnificent tall arches and ornamental columns. It was originally intended to house firms affiliated with the lumber industry. While the original Lumber Exchange was completed in 1916—its tower addition added in 1925, was named for the ill-fated Roanoke colony in Virginia—and the whole structure became known as the Roanoke Building, the fifth tallest building in Chicago when it was erected.

In recent years, however, the notewor­thy building fell on hard times and was not performing well as an office build­ing. The owner, an affiliate of The Prime Group, Inc. invested in the conversion of the vintage building to a new extend­ed stay boutique hotel, the Residence Inn Chicago Downtown/Loop. Interior renovations transformed the 35-story tower into an extended-stay hotel with an open lobby, meeting room space and new mechanical systems. The project restored the building’s almost century-old exterior and added a new entrance along LaSalle Street. Remod­eling the historic building announced that Chicago’s historic legacy was worth preserving for the next generation. The revamped building contributes to the new vibrancy of downtown Chicago and LaSalle Street, while blending Chi­cago’s historic architectural past with its current role as a tourism and busi­ness destination.

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It also makes a bold statement for Mar­riott’s Residence Inn brand. With 380 rooms (a mix of studios and one and two bedroom suites), the boutique-style Residence Inn Chicago at 11 S. LaSalle Street is the largest hotel in the Residence Inn chain and its urban flagship. The owner equipped the new property with luxurious details and amenities beyond the brand’s typical offerings, bringing out the building’s charm and elegance.

VOA’s design gives new life to the his­toric landmark building in downtown Chicago. In this adaptive reuse proj­ect, VOA provided architecture, inte­rior architecture and interior design services. Our designers married the Residence Inn brand standards with Chicago’s architectural legacy creating a design unique to Chicago and this historic building.

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The designers chose to emphasize the lasting materials and historic aspects from the original building. The wood and stone which characterize the build­ing lobby are carried through to the second floor reception area where a glowing stone reception desk contrasts with the building’s original large ornate bronze mailbox, which is still in use. Original historic hardware, where the “LE” logo of the Lumber Exchange can be seen, is clustered at various points of interest around the hotel.

Elsewhere, the contemporary amenities and modern features include: first-class suites have free Wi-Fi, fully equipped kitchens and separate areas for living, working, dining and sleeping. Elegant event rooms, suited for business gath­erings or social events, boast high-tech AV equipment and 6,700 square feet of flexible space. Guests can sweat it out in the state-of-the-art fitness center.

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The second floor, dense with ameni­ties, is the hotel’s hub of activity. Its bar serves as a downtown destination and a draw for business travelers, their guests and downtown workers.

You’ll find families staying at the historic hotel, too. A single suite at the Residence Inn Chicago offers families an affordable option for a getaway to the city and ac­cessing Chicago’s shopping, theater and attractions just blocks away.

In adapting a nearly century-old build­ing to a new function, there were bound to be some difficulties to over­come: What to do with those towers, for example. VOA turned a challenge, the towers with their narrower early 20th century floorplates, into an op­portunity. We designed luxury units on the tower floors featuring spectacu­lar 360-degree wraparound views of downtown Chicago and Lake Michigan. The hotel interior pays tribute to Chi­cago and its culture with Chicago-cen­tric design touches and artwork which emphasize Chicago’s rich architectural heritage. On the exterior, a ring of lights outline the hotel at the second floor level welcoming guests and highlight­ing the building’s original façade.

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The renovation highlights Chicago’s ar­chitectural legacy by incorporating dis­tinctive original features in a revitalized property. The rebirth of the unique Ro­anoke Building contributes to the con­tinued vitality of downtown Chicago.

For more on engagement, download the new VOA Design Quarterly.

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