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by Cheryl-Anne Sturken | March 6, 2015

Loews Chicago HotelThe Windy City might need to change its nickname to Red Hot, if the hotel development market keeps its foot on the accelerator. In January, Smith Travel Research reported that Chicago was second only to New York in number of guest rooms. Plus, at last count, the city has the fourth highest development pipeline in the country, with 3,102 rooms under construction — a 64 percent increase over 2013.

And as fast as properties open their doors, more are announced. In January, the 250-room Virgin Hotel Chicago opened in a 27-story art deco building downtown, complete with two restaurants,  a rooftop bar and lounge, and meeting space for groups of up to 150. One month later, before the applause had even settled, Jonathan Tisch, chairman of New York City-based Loews Hotels & Resorts, was cutting the ribbon at the official opening ceremony for the 400-room Loews Chicago Hotel, one block north of the Chicago River. That 52-story property, which also features a rooftop lounge, has over 25,000 square feet of meeting space and a 75-foot indoor pool in its 24-hour fitness center.

It doesn't end there, though. Just this week, Los Angeles-based Viceroy Hotel Group confirmed long-whispered rumors that is was bringing its brand to Chicago, with a scheduled opening set for sometime in 2017. The upscale hotelier, which has properties in Beverly Hills, Calif.; Miami; New York; Dubai, and Abu Dhabi, said it would develop a project alongside the Old Cedar Hotel on State Street. An initial zoning application filed last December reveals plans for an 18-story tower that will incorporate the facade of the Cedar Hotel. However, those plans could potentially change as community groups have yet to weigh in on the hotel's size and scale.

By the time the Viceroy opens, it will be a crowded city skyline. That's because several other major hotel projects already in Chicago's development pipeline will also be open for business. On tap to open later this year is the 257-room Hyatt Centric The Loop Chicago. In 2016, more big name hotels will follow, including the 93-room Nobu Chicago and the 156-room Hotel Indigo Chicago. The really big guns, however, don't come out until 2017, when the long-planned, $400 million, 1,200-room Marriott Marquis Chicago opens just west of McCormick Place.

All those new hotel rooms are going to be needed if Chicago continues to pursue its lofty tourism goal. According to Choose Chicago, the city's official destination marketing organization, the city attracted 50.2 million visitors in 2014, a 6.7 percent increase over 2012. And that brings Chicago that much closer to reaching Mayor Rahm Emanuel's goal of attracting 55 million visitors by 2020.