The Hyatt Regency O'Hare gets overdue refurbishment


With occupancy levels in line with other major Chicago hotels, at roughly 70%, and a long-entrenched position as one of O'Hare Airport's most popular group and conference hotels, the Hyatt Regency O'Hare could have easily coasted on its favored reputation and enviable airport location without disturbing its dated 1970s decor. 

But since the property is "a major hotel in the Hyatt portfolio," renovations were needed to keep up with Hyatt's standards, said Lisa Arias, director of marketing for the hotel.

"So we've undergone a major renovation of the public spaces that will eventually extend to all 1,100 rooms and 41 suites," Arias said.

The first phase of the redesign was no simple paint-and-carpet exchange. Rather, the $40 million project was a dramatic overhaul that completely transformed the hotel. A second, $20 million phase of renovation is planned.

Much of the interior's ubiquitous concrete lining is gone; so, too, is the darkness that seemed to hang over a nondescript restaurant and bar that felt somber and lifeless even during the most frenzied conferences and meetings.

The new look presents a bold, sleek, contemporary design for the Hyatt Regency O'Hare, which featured high-lofted, atrium-style architecture when it was built in 1971.

Highlights of the renovation include the new O'H American Grill restaurant, a welcome replacement for its lethargic predecessor, the Garden Terrace.

"We needed a three-meal restaurant. We wanted to compete with [nearby restaurants] Gibson's and Carlucci's," Arias said. 

The new venue's homestyle offerings are designed to appeal to business travelers as well as vacationers, with smartly prepared American dishes that include a generous assortment of meat -- the barbecued ribs are a noteworthy specialty -- fish and vegetarian options.

Red Bar, the new lobby bar, has 21 plasma-screen TVs and eight media screens sure to satisfy the most passionate sports fans. Those with less interest in balls, bats and skates will find much to enjoy on the bar's trattoria-influenced menu, a robust offering of Italian meats and cheeses, pizzas, pastas and bar fare that accompany the bar's traditional cocktails and more innovative creations.

Other hotel upgrades are the Hub conference center, with 17 breakout rooms, which replaces the hotel pool; the VIP Regency Club, with wines, snacks and cozy seating; a full-service business center with 24-hour Fedex/Kinko's; and the Stay Fit Gym, a 24-hour facility with commercial-grade cardiovascular equipment and flat-screen TVs.

"We've raised the bar for airport hotels around the country simply because we are so much more than just a facility in which to spend the night before an early morning flight," said David Jacobs, the hotel's general manager.

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