Navy Pier to get a hotel

(CHICAGO) Add hotel destination to the list of identities Navy Pier has taken on since Chicago’s famous lakefront attraction was built 100 years ago.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced Sunday that construction of the hotel will begin in 2017 and be completed in the second half of 2018, the Chicago Sun-Times is reporting.

The five-story, 200-room hotel will be built next to the Festival Hall near the end of the Pier, and, for the first time, will allow visitors to spend the night, according to the mayor’s office.

A preliminary design of a glass-and-steel structure with balconies for each room has been put together by architect Jackie Koo, who designed the Wit hotel at 201 N. State.

“This new hotel will be a key part of the transformation and our efforts to bring 55 million visitors to Chicago annually by 2020, generating jobs and economic opportunity throughout Chicago’s neighborhoods,” Emanuel said in the release.

Navy Pier was a naval training facility during World War II. Afterward it served as a branch of the University of Illinois. And after years of neglect, it was transformed into one of Chicago’s top tourist destinations.

The hotel plan comes on the heels of another recent announcement: In 2015, Chicago set a record for domestic tourism, drawing 50.97 million visitors.

The hotel is projected to cost $90 million and will not require taxpayer money, the mayor’s office said. No brand name has been chosen for the hotel, which will be developed by and operated by Chicago-based First Hospitality Group. The group owns 19 hotels in Illinois under banners such as Hyatt, Hilton, Holiday Inn and Marriott.

“The hotel will provide a unique place to stay in Chicago year round — not to mention breathtaking and unparalleled views of the Pier, lake and city,” Marilynn Gardner, Navy Pier Inc. president and CEO, said in the release.

The hotel project, part of Navy Pier’s Centennial Vision, which aims to reimagine the Pier, is expected to create 300 construction jobs and 200 permanent jobs, according to the release.

Last year, the Pier unveiled its new 196-foot Ferris wheel, almost 50 feet higher than the one it replaced.

More than 8 million people visit Navy Pier annually. It is billed as the top-attended leisure destination in the Midwest.

The Pier stretches more than six city blocks and contains 50 acres of parks, restaurants, retail shops, sightseeing and dining cruise boats and exposition facilities.