The Weekly is STREAMING now. Join us at HorizonTV

Gray lady no more: A facelift erases a landmark’s wrinkles, but not her heritage

The Building Team restored the granite and terra cotta façade and reclaimed more than 500 double-hung windows.

November 17, 2017 |
The Grand Staircase of The Gray

The Grand Staircase of The Gray, a new Kimpton hotel. The original building was designed by William Le Baron Jenney, known as the father of the skyscraper. Photo: Laure Joliet

By 2006, the New York Life Insurance Building, designed in 1893 by the father of the skyscraper, William Le Baron Jenney, had receded into obsolescence. Its owner, Hamilton Partners, was planning to demolish the 14-story landmark in Chicago’s Loop to make way for a 51-story hotel/office tower next door.

The building, once the Midwest headquarters of New York Life Insurance Company, found a savior in Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants. Kimpton, part of the Intercontinental Hotels Group, bought it from Hamilton in 2013, and worked for the next three years with its project team to execute a robust reconstruction program that preserved the integrity of Jenney’s design while creating a new use for the structure.

The Building Team restored the granite and terra cotta façade and reclaimed more than 500 double-hung windows. It moved the building’s main entrance to West Monroe Street, with a new bronze-clad canopy. The original entrance, on LaSalle Street, now serves as the portal to the Georgia Gray marble double staircase leading to Volume 39, the hotel’s lobby lounge and bar.

The hotel, now called The Gray, has 293 rooms and suites, a fitness center, 12,000 sf of meeting space, and a top-floor ballroom. One of the more stunning additions is Boleo, a South American-style bar that incorporates a 1,200-sf operable skylight.

Due to the lack of drawing documentation, the team had to engage in discovery and investigation over the course of the entire project. The building’s archaic floor framing made it difficult to create new openings for infrastructure and reconfigurations.

The building had no loading dock or space for an exterior hoist, so deliveries had to be made during off hours. An interior hoist had to be installed to move materials. Hazardous materials had to be remediated before interior demolition could begin.

As the awards jury noted, the Building Team overcame all these difficulties and, in keeping with Kimpton’s EarthCare program, executed sustainable and energy-efficient strategies throughout.


Project Summary


Gold Award Winner

Building Team: Gensler (submitting firm, architect, AOR) KHP Capital Partners (owner/developer) Stillwater Consulting (owner’s rep) Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants (operator) Beleco Design (hotel interiors) Parts and Labor Design (restaurant/lounge interior design) Forefront Structural Engineers (SE) AMS Mechanical Systems (mechanical/plumbing engineer) JMS Electric (EE) James McHugh Construction (GC).

Details: 239,000 sf. Construction cost: ConfidentIal. Construction time: October 2014 to August 2016. Delivery method: Design-bid-build.


See all of the 2017 Reconstruction Award winners here

Overlay Init

Your card will be charged: 0