THE LOOP — If you squint, the Hilton Garden Inn planned to be built at 66 E. Wacker Place next year will look a bit like the Chicago River.
That's no accident — GREC Architects conceived of a five-toned metal facade on the 25-story tower's west side by taking a snapshot of the river and "zooming in" until it was pixilated.
The windowless wall is intended to "frame" the adjacent Seventeenth Church of Christ, Scientist, GREC principal David Ervin said Monday at a community meeting co-sponsored by Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) and the Chicago Loop Alliance.
The goal was to "create a cohesive wall and pedestrian experience," Ervin said, being mindful of the materials used in the church and the other iconic building on the future hotel's east side: the Chicago Motor Club.
The limited-service hotel will have 27 usable floors, thanks to a gym and meeting room and basement seated below Upper Wacker Drive. That includes 191 rooms of about 280 square feet apiece, with windows facing north and south.
Roughly 220 feet tall, the tower will be shorter than nearby Hotel 71, but still includes a small restaurant and bar on the miniscule 48-by-100-feet footprint.
Hilton hopes to open the hotel in the spring of 2015, said a spokesman for GDS Companies, representing the property owner Magna Hospitality.
Reilly emphasized at the meeting that the plan as it appears now is subject to changes, and preempted potential community concerns about preserving the Motor Club, also being eyed as a future hotel site.
"Making sure the Motor Club is protected, and respected throughout this whole process is important," Reilly said. "No one wants to see an important building like the Motor Club ruined."
To that end, Reilly said GREC and developers met with the Commission on Chicago Landmarks before drawing up their designs.
The main logistical issue facing the hotel is the shortage of loading space. Ervin said GREC will work with Motor Club developers to explore sharing the loading space the hotel has planned for Lower East Wacker Place.
As for parking, developers expect roughly 20 percent of guests will drive to the hotel each night, according to Greg DeStefano with GDS Consulting.
Still, Reilly said traffic on Wacker Place will be closely monitored, and adjustments may be made, even after the hotel opens.
"We'll be doing more enforcement — the city — on Wacker Place," Reilly said. "We also reserve the right, after the property is open and operating, to make changes in the best interest of the city for further managing traffic."
Reilly conceded that there may be a lot of tweaks in store for the plan.
"The current conditions on Wacker Place are not acceptable to me," Reilly said.
"But we do need more hotels downtown."
Signage for the hotel will be limited to two ground-level signs, Ervin said.