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Peek into The Robey and The Hollander in their final completion stages
The third building in the complex, which was originally presented in 2013, is already home to the green roofed Sprint store, 1624 N. Milwaukee.
Two retail spaces in the Hollander on the Milwaukee Ave. side are now leased but the names of those businesses have not been announced.
Guest reservations for The Hollander opened on Wednesday and, like The Robey, their first bookings are for November 30.
Panoramic views of the City from Lake Michigan on the east and as far as the eye can see in the other directions are seen from the top of the 6-story Hollander and the 13-story Robey, as well as it's higher floors.
The bustle of the city and the day to day activities in the neighborhoods are the views from the lower floors.
Restaurants, a bike hub, with onsite bike rental and repair, as well as a public laundry will add to the convenience of guests as well as other visitors and neighborhood people.
From the top of the flag pole to the foundation that was poured in 1928-9 creating the originally named North West Tower building, The Robey is an ode to the area's history.
Originally believed to have been the site of a private home, it became a 3-story commercial building with a rounded dome top known as the Milnoro (Milnosa) building around 1890.
Known as The Tower and later the Coyote Building, because of an art event, the current structure has stood century over an urban evolution that had its good times and bad. Still standing as a beacon for the Wicker Park neighborhood, its interior is cutting edge in technology and use while its exterior is a tribute to yesterday's craftsmen as well as the progress of twentieth century business and community.
The carved art deco designed limestone ornamentation on the building's façade, the metal ornamental panels separating the first and second floors, along with the concrete panels under the guest windows, have been restored to their original elegance.
Even the revolving door on the Milwaukee Ave. side has been restored by a company that bought the original manufacturer that produced the door in 1929.
With the sun glistening on the cleaned limestone and new windows and the deep green metal and gray accents, it can be a breath-taking sight.
While it is expected that every restoration project will reveal the unexpected, Don Wilson and his Convexity Properties team was not deterred by the many challenges. They faced them, made changes and muscled on. Some, however, forced major changes such as not building out underground parking nor building a second story on the new structure along Milwaukee Ave.
More currently, code required them to add higher railings on the behind the scenes stairwells. Expecting to replace 35 limestone pieces on the tower's cupola, reality changed that number to 340 pieces.
Linking the Buildings
Though the two structures have different accommodations, one an urban hotel and the other a warehouse, there is one public access point on the first floor. Each property has two elevators. One in The Hollander is an express to the roof.
Even more intriguing is the fact that the mechanical maintenance plant for all three buildings is in one location, the fifth floor of The Hollander, originally built in 1905 as the Hollander Fireproof Warehouse.
Throughout The Robey building, think windows to the world. Every guest room has at least two and public areas have large plate glass expanses.
Guests will have wonderful opportunities to feel part of a vibrant urban neighborhood setting.
In keeping with historic renovation the windows are wood clad aluminum from Wisconsin based Parrett Windows & Doors, while the plate glass windows are manufactured in Mexico.
The main reception area is on the ground level on the way in from the hotel's North Ave. entrance. Just beyond will be Café Robey, with Chef Bradley Stellings serving French and American cuisine in the complex's main restaurant.
Located at the point of the first floor (former home to the Sprint store), diners will have the six-cornered intersection of Milwaukee, North and Damen as their ever changing visual experience, while a sound deadening acoustic plaster ceiling will aid in creating a pleasant dining atmosphere.
Serviced by a small kitchen tucked behind a glass wall, their hours for breakfast will be from 7 to 11 a.m., lunch from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and dinner from 6 to 11 p.m. On the weekend, they will be offering brunch from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
"While this is just an estimate," said Santiago Leon, General Manager of The Robey, "We believe the average check for breakfast will be $14 to $16, Lunch $22 to $24 and dinner $28 to $30 (including drinks).
In the area of the building's former lobby on the Milwaukee Ave. side, the one-and-a-half flight of marble stairs remains as does the painted ceiling decoration along with the small portion of the original 1929 painting.
The stairway gives access to the second floor lounge. This space will act as a larger lobby with a coat check, where there is a bar and an area that can be made private with a glass wall for a meeting or dining. The meeting space area will have a pull down screen on one wall for presentations.
With windows following the floor plate, banquette seating will ring the rest of the area where there will also be some tables. Two elevators provide access to guest rooms and the first floor.
Walls throughout the building will be painted a very deep luscious green called deep river. It is one of the colors that was on the original building.
On the thirteenth floor, for guests and the public, there will be a small bar and lounge with an acoustic wood ceiling and an outside area with a spectacular view. A special room in the cupola will open when weather permits.
The copper light atop the cupola with its curved glass has been restored as has the flagpole.
On the lower floors, carpeting lines the hallways, while the rooms have wood flooring.
The marble baseboards and wainscoting that originally lined the corridors and elevator lobbies had to be removed and 40% was lost in the process. However the remaining marble was cleaned, polished and put back.
Because of the shrinkage, some floors have corridors with only marble baseboard while some have marble baseboard and wainscot by the elevators and others have marble along the entire corridor.
The original glass doors are used for room doors. However, city code requires that they be solid doors, thus in the dimly lit corridors, it may not be easy to realize that they are the originals.
Every room has at least two windows with one that opens to the outside. The Panorama suite and all rooms at the point of the building will have motorized blackout sheets on the windows. A special opaque wire glass effectively separates the room from the bathroom, making all the guest rooms appear to be more spacious than their 215 to 675 square foot size.
With attention to detail such as Terrazzo floors and winged mirrors in the bathrooms, there is an homage to the past with new old-style light switches and the sink faucets.
There are four Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant rooms that are part of the 69 room total. Queen beds will be in 29, kings in 30. Nine Corner Suites have a king and the Panorama Suite will have a king. Rates begin at $156.
Like The Robey, The Hollander has many roles to play in this complex.
What once was the shaft for a huge elevator is now a skylight topped wide staircase with exposed brick walls. Continuing the history of hands-on work of the original warehouse, much of this structure is devoted to the operations of the complex.
In addition to housing the mechanical maintenance plant, this energy efficient structure houses the main kitchen (with its walk-in refrigerator and freezer), administrative and sales offices, staff facilities and housekeeping. Waste and loading dock are on the North Ave. side by the alley west of the building.
The guest facing parts of the building are guest rooms, bike rental and repair, coffee shop and public laundry facility with the pool (on its roof). To maintain the original working and doing atmosphere cement board was used on the walls to give the rough industrial feel.
Entry through the main entrance will be to a glass vestibule beyond which is an open, high ceiling space. It is home to bike rental and repair, coffee shop and public laundry facility as well as a small reception desk.
While it would have been cool to leave the original garage door as part of this space, practically it became impossible, commented Evan Meister, Convexity Properties' lead on the entire project.
The Hollander Experience
The feel for guests and visitors in The Hollander will be totally different than The Robey. Ceilings are 20 feet high and floors are polished concrete while windows are steel framed. Brick walls, concrete floors, pipes and ducts are au naturel.
"This warehouse feel lets the bones of the building speak for itself," said Meister.
It will have 10 loft (private) and social stay (shared) rooms on each of two floors in this warehouse environment. The smallest room can accommodate three people and the largest six.
Guests have a choice of a four or six bed social stay room while loft guests have a choice of a two queen bed, one queen and two twin or a one queen and one twin bed room. Rooms range from 260 to 425 square feet in size.
All have en-suite bathrooms, most have private shower and private toilet rooms. There are individual lockable wall units for personal storage with electric outlets that can be used as an electronic charging station.
Both room types will have free wifi. Lofts also have TV, a mini bar and access to the pool during the season.
"Room rates will range from $45 to $65 per sharing person and $109 to $280 for private rooms, depending on the season and room size," explained Leon.
Hotel operator Grupo Habita's goal for this stay experience is "To bring people together who love food, design, the arts and culture, mix them all up and have a great time (and a good night’s sleep). We want to do for our guests what social media does for the world: bring us all closer together through shared experiences."
To meet that goal The Hollander gives those confirming their booking the opportunity to add their Instagram handle when prompted to request a room number. The guest can then see who else they maybe connecting with in that room.
What is next?
Breakage of one of the large plate glass windows has delayed getting the last windows in but that will soon be completed.
Soon the sidewalks and part of the street on the Milwaukee and North Ave. sides of the building will be redone.
In the midst of staffing up, Groupo Habita, operators of this two-in-one hotel, will be having a "soft opening" by inviting neighbors prior to their first guests arriving on November 30. However the exact schedule is not in place as of now.
This will be Groupo Habita's second U.S. flagship, having launched New York's Hotel Americano in 2011.
*Interior Photos courtesy of Grupo Habita