Wrigley Field, home of Major League Baseball’s Chicago Cubs, is almost more famous than the city it belongs to. With the team riding high after its first World Series win in 108 years, the area surrounding Wrigley Field is in expansion mode, with a two-tower hotel being planted directly next to the iconic stadium courtesy of Hickory Street Capital, a real estate development firm owned by the Ricketts family, which also owns the Cubs and Wrigley Field.
Eric Nordness, VP & CFO at Hickory Street Capital, is a long-time Chicagoan who used to live in the neighborhood surrounding Wrigley Field. Because of that, he is excited to transform the area into something valuable to the city of Chicago. The project that has consumed his attention is the development of the Hotel Zachary, a two-tower, seven-story development adjacent to the stadium consisting of new offices for the Cubs and an independent hotel. The Hotel Zachary will consist of 175 keys, and was originally signed under Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide but is now in the process of migrating to Marriott International.
Nordness has made it his mission to keep the hotel’s design and operation in line with the spirit of Wrigleyville, the neighborhood surrounding the field, which he said requires a certain level of finesse.
“Wrigley Field is an amazing accident,” Nordness said. “It’s a professional sports arena located across the street from residential homes. It’s a unique place to be.”
Part of that unique culture is the draw of local restaurants. According to Nordness, the bottom floor of the building will belong to a dozen tenants, most of them running food-and-beverage outlets, encircling an open-air plaza acting as a gathering place for the local community. Bolstering this will be community programming such as concerts, farmers markets, children’s music and theater and game-day hangouts for fans before Cubs games. This layout was designed to mirror the dense urban environment of Wrigleyville, which is clustered with restaurants owned and operated by local Chicagoans. “We had to connect with the community and be neighborhood driven,” Nordness said. “The same had to be true with the hotel.”
RELATED: To learn more about Chicago hotel development and what it takes to succeed there, check out Questex's new event series, Hotel ROI, one-day conferences focused on how to leverage a hotel asset for maximum returns. The Chicago event will take place Aug. 10, 2017.
Hickory Street wanted to shy away from calling the property the “Cubs Hotel,” appropriating a piece of Chicago history in such a brazen manner. Instead, the property was named after Zachary Taylor Davis, the original architect of Wrigley Field, giving a nod to the stadium without tying the hotel to baseball.
“We thought a lot about positioning,” Nordness said. “We know that by proxy we will be busy during baseball season, with 42,000 people coming past us every game. Those 175 days out of the year, from a sales perspective, will be the easiest to sell. We have more demand than supply at those times, so we want to be relevant and interesting whether it’s game day or not.”
Nordness showed his Chicago roots in referencing Zachary Taylor Davis, calling him the “Frank Lloyd Wright of stadium architects.” By naming the property after Davis, the hotel tips its hat to landmark historic buildings, and Chicago as a whole for its reputation as a city for architecture. The hotel plans on opening April 2, 2018 to coincide with the start of the baseball season, and will be managed by Pivot Hotels & Resorts, the lifestyle division of Davidson Hotels & Resorts. Designer Studio K will be in charge of the property’s lobby design, while the Stantec architecture group will handle the building’s construction.
Nordness said the hotel is coming together at the right time. The biggest development trend taking place in the city, according to Nordness, is a major shift in corporate headquarters from the suburbs to downtown. “There is a great influx of people moving to stay here,” he said. “I’ve lived here for 25 years now, and the neighborhoods and restaurant culture are more vibrant than they’ve ever been.”
On the supply side, Nordness said that compared to other major convention cities, such as Orlando and Las Vegas, Chicago’s supply increases have been sorely needed.
“There is a lot of supply coming to the market over the next 18 months; that is no secret, but developers are cognizant of that. I’m neutral in the short term, bullish in the long term,” Nordness said. “We like the fundamentals and the trends. Chicago gets a lot of press around crime, and while that’s definitely an issue the city needs to resolve, and is working to, the story is also thriving, which is at odds with that trend.”