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CitizenM hotel

300 N. Michigan combines hotel, retail and apartment spaces into one building, utilizing special entrances and spaces accessed by a smartphone app.

K’Von Jackson for WBEZ

What’s That Building? 300 N. Michigan Ave.

If you embark down Michigan Avenue from the river, ambling along toward Millennium Park, you’ll notice a building emblazoned with two giant Ms.

Developers Sterling Bay and Magellan completed the 47-story tower at 300 N. Michigan this past summer. Designed by bKL Architecture, the building contains 30 floors of apartments called Millie on Michigan and 10 floors of hotel rooms called CitizenM.

The retail spaces on the lower floors aren’t occupied yet (but keep your fingers crossed the M&M Store signs a lease).

If a pair of Ms two stories high aren’t enough to grab your eye, the riot of color they reveal might. The Ms, which serve a structural purpose we’ll get to, create sort of a front porch, an open-air space where the fifth and sixth floors would be. The porch ceiling is a vibrant, 2,000-square-feet mural designed by Chicago-born artist Nina Chanel Abney.

While the rest of the tower looks like a lot of other new buildings in Chicago — glassy, rectilinear, very light on ornamental details — that front porch sends a big, bold message there’s something unusual here.

The porch is an enticing social space, the outdoor extension of the CitizenM hotel’s main reception and bar area, indoors on the sixth floor. On a tour of the building, Brian Bezanis, vice president of megadeveloper Sterling Bay, told WBEZ’s Reset the space where the mural is was originally designed to be clad in metal panels. However, the hotel’s reps asked for something more visually exciting to match the interior design, which is a tornado of colors, lights and materials.

And those Ms? They’re trusses that shift the number of structural columns from four on the apartment and hotel floors to three on the retail floors below. Think of them more as Ys, with two outstretched arms taking the load from above and transferring it to a single leg.

Above the Y, “the column spacing is ideal for apartments and hotel rooms, about 22 feet,” Bezanis said. But below the Y, “retailers don’t want all those columns in their space.”

The hotel floors have 28 rooms, and the apartment floors have 10 units.

These hotel rooms are small, 8 feet by 22. That’s a specialty of Amsterdam-based CitizenM hotels: relatively small rooms but big social spaces. The rooms here are 176 square feet, a tad more than half the average U.S. hotel room size, which is 325 square feet.

CitizenM's concept is that guests spend more time in the hotel’s social spaces, including the front porch and the check-in, bar and lounge space that most people would call the lobby, but which CitizenM refers to as the living room.

The apartments are bigger, from studios at about 550 square feet (for $2,200 a month) to two-bedrooms at about 1,140 square feet (at $4,000 to about $5,200). They too have a lot of social space. Renters have access to CitizenM’s front porch, and they also have a tenants-only outdoor rooftop one flight up and around the corner on the building’s north side. There’s a dog exercise area in another porchlike cutout about 10 flights up.

But the prime space is the 46th floor, accessible only by tenants. Inside there are coworking spaces and other rooms, and, outside, terraces with views of both Michigan Avenue and the westward flow of the river. Inside or out, there are fantastic views of an architecture fan’s list of Chicago’s greatest hits, including the Wrigley Building, the Art Deco characters and scenes carved into 333 N. Michigan’s upper reaches, the twin Marina City towers, and the St. Regis.

They all look great from up there, but the real stunner is the close-up view you get of the golden spire and shoulders of the Carbide and Carbon Building, a treasure from 1929.

Dennis Rodkin is the residential real estate reporter for Crain’s Chicago Business and Reset’s “What’s That Building?” contributor. Follow him on Twitter @Dennis_Rodkin.

K’Von Jackson is the freelance photojournalist for Reset’s “What’s That Building?” Follow him on Instagram @true_chicago.

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