Posh Marina City hotel may soon house over 1,000 migrants; downtown alderman puts mayor on blast

The Hotel Chicago Downtown is located in the Marina City complex, steps from the House of Blues. | Google

Update 6:32 p.m. — Crain’s Chicago Business reports tonight that the city has “nixed” the idea of turning the hotel into a migrant shelter.

“I am glad the Johnson Administration decided to listen to reason by shelving this horrendous idea,” the outlet quoted Ald. Brendan Reilly as saying. “They were strongly considering the site as late as this past Friday. I’m glad they’ve decided to abandon that plan — it was a terrible idea from the very start.”

CHICAGO — Some of Chicago’s newest residents may soon live in a posh hotel with the House of Blues and the landmark Marina City “corncob” towers just steps from their front door.

That’s because city officials are thinking about converting the Hotel Chicago Downtown, 333 North Dearborn, into a migrant housing facility, Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) revealed in an email Monday. More than 1,000 migrants could be housed in the 350+-room operation, which used to be called the House of Blues Hotel and, later, the Hotel Sax, according to Reilly.

“Converting the Hotel Chicago into a migrant hotel defies logic,” the alderman’s message to constituents said, adding that he “is vehemently opposed” to the idea. Turning the hotel into migrant residences “will do irreparable harm to the River North community,” the email continued.

Hotel Chicago Downtown, part of the Marriott Hotel chain’s Autograph Collection, is currently offering room rates starting from $148 to $500 over the next month.

Reilly argues that a stretch of State Street that runs near the hotel has been on the Chicago Police Department’s list of “drug and gang hotspots” for years.

The hotel is steps from an already problematic CTA Red Line stop; just blocks away from the temporary Bally’s Casino; and is surrounded by residential buildings, hotels, and other tourism destinations,” he continued.

The alderman blasted Mayor Brandon Johnson.

“Mayor Johnson is abusing the authority of his office; is entering into illegal contracts without appropriate legislative approvals by the Chicago City Council; and is willfully violating the law by doing so,” he wrote. “Last week, a lawsuit was filed, challenging the mayor’s authority to unilaterally select properties to serve as migrant facilities.”

Earlier this month, Reilly and Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd) called for the city to shutter its largest migrant shelter, operating out of the Inn of Chicago, just steps from the Magnificent Mile, at year’s end.

Reilly called the living conditions at the Inn of Chicago “abhorrent” and claimed criminal activity is seen there “on a daily basis,” while 911 calls have “skyrocketed.”

“The Inn of Chicago experiment has been an abject failure, and the contract should be ended,” Reilly stated in his email Monday.

Reilly encouraged readers to voice their opposition to the Hotel Chicago plan:

Please email the following members of the Johnson Administration, with a cc to our office (objections@ward42chicago.com)

Mayor Johnson (bjmoc@cityofchicago.org, (312-744-3300)

Deputy Mayor of Immigrant and Refugee Rights, Beatriz Ponce de Leon (beatriz.poncedeleon@cityofchicago.org, 312-744-5501)

First Deputy Chief of Staff, Cristina Pacione-Zayas
(cristina.pacione-zayas@cityofchicago.org, 312-744-6280)”

— Email from Ald. Brandon Johnson to his constituents on October 30, 2023

Original reporting you’ll see nowhere else, paid for by our readers. Click here to support our work.

About Tim Hecke 326 Articles
Tim Hecke is CWBChicago's managing partner. He started his career at KMOX, the legendary news radio station in St. Louis. From there, he moved on to work at stations in Minneapolis, Chicago, and New York City. Tim went on to build syndicated radio news and content services that served every one of America's 100 largest radio markets. He became CWBChicago's managing partner in 2019. His email address is tim@cwbchicago.com