by Cheryl-Anne Sturken | March 21, 2016

Conrad ChicagoLast May, the former Conrad Chicago on Rush Street changed hands and management went to Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, who swiftly rebranded it The Gwen and folded it into its Luxury Collection. In the wake of this move, many were left pondering whether, perhaps, Chicago just wasn't the right destination for the Conrad brand. As it turns out, we should have been a bit more patient. 

In just under four months, the new 287-room Conrad Chicago will open her doors on Erie Street, just west of Michigan Avenue. The Hotel Insider caught up with Gordon Taylor III, director of sales and marketing for the new property, for the inside scoop on preparing for the grand opening and the importance of the Conrad brand making a return appearance, at a time when the Chicago skyline is flooded with glitzy new hotels, with more on the way.

"When I think of Conrad, this hotel will be a true representation of the brand," said Taylor. "It's a very different property [from the former incarnation]. I like to say this hotel is luxury with an edge." That edge starts with an abundance of smart technology. Guests be able to go straight from the airport to their rooms by using their smartphones to securely download an assigned key through Hilton's loyalty app, Hhonors; and with a few clicks on the Conrad Concierge app, they can make any number of requests, from extra towels and wake-up calls to spa appointments and room service.

The new Conrad's biggest edge, however, might be its capital investment in meeting and event space. The hotel teamed up with Washington, D.C.-based Social Tables On-Site, an online cloud-based software development company, to create 2-D and 3-D diagramming of its meeting areas, which gives planners an interactive experience of the actual spaces. "When I send them my proposal, I include a link to the meeting space, which lets them walk the rooms, see the actual carpets, walls, chairs and even the view their attendees will have," said Taylor. "They can play with the setup, too, and that makes clients feel like they are part of the actual process without ever being on-site."

According to Taylor, the typical group size for the new Conrad Chicago will range from 20 to 125 rooms per night. In response to enormous demand, the hotel will have two dedicated hospitality suites, as well as 12 guest rooms that can be converted into one-on-one meeting spaces. And that's not all. Just late last week the hotel received approval from management to assign a dedicated phone number to clients with which they can stay in contact via text with an on-site dedicated event specialist. We say, welcome back Conrad!