Change up. It takes more than prime real estate to attract upscale guests, even if the location overlooks a historic landmark. That’s why when it came to creating Hotel Zachary at Gallagher Way, giving the new stadium-side structure visual meaning with interiors that would reflect both the residential warmth of Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood and the heritage of the mastermind behind Wrigley Field was vital.
Hickory Street Capital already had its power hitters in mind. Stantec Architecture had been contracted by the Chicago Cubs to execute a multiphase renovation of Wrigley Field in 2013 before the real estate development company awarded the firm the adjacent hotel’s architecture and guestroom interiors (as well as a plaza and office building) one year later. Locally based Studio K Creative had an in too, having previously collaborated with Hickory Street president Crane Kenney, who’s also president of business operations for the Cubs, on other projects (including the major league baseball team’s new offices) before being tapped to create Hotel Zachary’s public spaces. Chicago’s Walsh Construction rounded out the all-star team, serving as the hotel’s general contractor.
From conception to opening day, it took just under a year and a half for Studio K to complete the hotel’s 8,000 sq. ft. of public areas. To create a natural traffic flow and overall multifunctionality, the designers defined various spaces within an open floor plan, including a communal reception area, bar, dining lounge, window seating and a breakfast area. A more secluded lounge, dubbed “the fireplace room,” serves as a warm welcome during the Windy City’s brutal winters.
“We tried to create fluidity so that guests could gather in groups, have conversations, host meetings and still feel connected to any activity at Wrigley Field,” says Studio K principal Karen Herold. That meant limiting the number of televisions to four to maintain a certain level of intimacy, and adding lightweight furniture to allow for casual flexibility. (The firm has added more loose ottomans since the hotel’s debut in response to requests by the staff who noticed the need for seating solutions for larger groups.)
Giving the newbuild hotel lasting impact without boring guests with a literal interpretation meant digging deeper than sports trivia and doing some serious history homework. Early 1900s architect Zachary Taylor Davis became not only the hotel’s namesake but the key reference for its overall visual narrative. “We wanted to honor his career legacy and his family by making each space feel like an extension of his home,” says Herold. So Studio K’s designers set up meetings with Davis’ family, who were flown into Chicago from New York and other cities, to get their inspo.
“They shared family photos, articles, birth certificates, letters and stories from Davis and his immediate family,” recalls Studio K senior designer Alicia Kelly. “There was so much to choose from. We had all of the images scanned and cataloged as we determined what we could use and where.”
Those findings included portraits provided by one of the architect’s great granddaughters that Herold says serve as the launching pad for much of the lobby artwork. A consultant scanned the various visuals in high resolution, then had a local artist paint over them, adding character to the main portrait at the lobby staircase, the custom wallcovering in the fireplace room and some of the other family photos throughout the public spaces. “We wanted to transform the historic items into contemporary artworks while keeping the integrity of the original pieces,” says Herold.
That approach is prominent in the Alma Room restaurant. Based on a love letter from Davis’ wife, that venue’s main art piece combines her personal letters, love poems from the early 1900s and bright neon signage displaying the “Love Alma” signature with a Cubs-blue overlay.
Yesteryear’s artifacts make their way from the lobby into the hotel’s 173 accommodations. A blueprint of Wrigley Field bearing Davis’ signature serves as the centerpiece of each guestroom, while the suites offer more insight into the architect’s personal life with family photos modernized by graffiti-like overlays. Built-in bookshelves, chess tables and oak wardrobes evoke the feeling of a stately residence as a tribute to Davis’ educated, high-profile social status. Strategically placed plaid patterns recall his love of golf.
Lisa Chervinsky, senior hospitality designer at Stantec, points out that the park’s famed architect and the property’s sports-centric location weren’t the hotel’s only sources of inspiration. Channeling the Lakeview neighborhood’s decidedly inviting vibe into the rooms and suites was top priority.
“I’d tag the materials palette as ‘Chicago residential.’ In almost every vintage apartment in the city, you find some combination of white hex floor tile, subway wall tile and oak built-in cabinetry,” says Chervinsky. “The guestroom design evokes a sense of nostalgia using these traditional materials, yet captures a progressive spirit by combining modern accents of polished chrome and glass. The blending of classic with contemporary was important because the early 20th century—when Davis practiced—was a very progressive time for Chicago architecture.”
Although the hotel isn’t all about baseball, the designers couldn’t resist a few subtle nods to the game. Coffee tables resembling trunks take cues from the chests baseball teams once used to carry their equipment while traveling. Lush green headboard upholstery reflects the color of the ballpark’s famed ivy.
Chervinsky says the designers worked through several layouts with the client to ensure they achieved the eclectic, residential quality the ownership was envisioning without sacrificing functionality. “Vintage-inspired elements relating to the neighborhood capture a comfortable familiarity, while modern lighting, fixtures and finishes lend a more updated feel, respecting the architecture and providing the necessary conveniences guests desire,” she explains.
Based on the millwork of traditional foyers, custom white oak paneled wardrobes in each entryway imbue a formal sense of arrival, but their Carrera marble surfaces serve as a convenient catchall for keys and phones. High-back wing chairs are paired with custom side tables equipped with leather pouches for holding local literature. Bathroom vanities inspired by pedestal sinks are modernized with large, clean-lined tops and millwork bases, providing niches for amenities and guest belongings. Chervinsky says the freestanding arrangement of furnishings further amplifies the residential atmosphere.
Thinking long term, the Stantec team deliberately chose built-in wardrobes, headboards and millwork bookshelves with classic lines to allow the design to evolve over time without dating too quickly. However, overall the designers went against today’s streamlined guestroom trend, aiming for a homey upscale feel that would help the hotel standout in the competitive Wrigleyville/Lakeview market.
While Stantec and Studio K worked independently on the project, both firms attribute their unified vision to the clear brand guidelines provided by the hotel’s owners. (That soft brand is Marriott Intl.’s Tribute Portfolio.) “The ownership served as the liaison between the two firms to ensure the designs were cohesive,” says Chervinsky. “Additionally, we worked with the same art consultant for the guestrooms and public areas, so the artwork program is consistent throughout the property.”
Don’t bunt. A baseball theme for a ballpark location may seem like a no-brainer. But here, the designers took a risk, choosing to layer a personal history and a neighborhood personality to give a shiny new building enduring character that feels more like staying in a friend’s apartment than crashing in the box seats. Now that’s a home run.
Hickory Street Capital
Pivot Hotels & Resorts
Stantec Architecture: Rebel Roberts, vice president, design leader; David Stelter, principal; Lisa Chervinsky, senior hospitality designer; Eric Stanley, project architect; Lindsey Boley, designer; Shuang Jiang, designer
Studio K Creative: Karen Herold, principal; Alicia Kelly, senior designer
Eggtoy Studios (metal cabinets)
Hugh Lighting (lighting)
Migrations Inc. (FF&E coordinator)
Sternberg Lighting (lighting)
RCG Art Consulting
Valley Forge Fabrics
Fil Doux Textiles
Moore & Giles
Sabine Hill/Studio K Creative
SONNEMAN – A Way of Light
Urban Electric Co.
Carl Hansen & Søn
Mitchell Gold & Bob Williams
Artisan Venetian Plaster