In June, The Union League Club of Chicago opened its new first-floor lounge, which was quickly dubbed “ONE” by members, as in “Meet me on One.” The opening of the lounge, designed to appeal to the concept of providing a “third place” for members outside of home and work, marked the completion of the fourth major renovation project at the 139-year-old institution since 2014.
The new ground-floor space in the club’s multi-story building in Chicago’s downtown South Loop section includes a coffee bar and casual lounge that doubles as an open, wi-fi equipped workspace that club members can use throughout the day.
“The Union League Club of Chicago is a special place, as it allows members to participate in civic, philanthropic and cultural affairs,” said the club’s President, Edward Cooper III, when the lounge was opened “We’re so excited to re-open the first-floor space for our members, as it’s a true example of the future of the club.
“We hope this new space provides members with an informal meeting location for their everyday activities that are becoming common in new work settings, and also continues to offer the opportunity to inspire members to live enriching and philanthropic lives,” Cooper added.
To evolve with the times and respond to member feedback about how the space could be repurposed, the club completely transformed the northeast corner of its first floor, which had previously been a closed-off staff area. And as part of the transformation, for the first time in the club’s history the ground-floor windows that were previously blocked with privacy-enhancing exterior displays have been opened up to create welcoming views, from inside and out, for both members and the public.
In its report on the new space, in fact, Crain’s Chicago Business noted that passersby who look in from the street now frequently come into the club to ask if they can buy coffee. And while they’re told no, “It leads to an increased awareness of the club,” Jared Wike, Director of Marketing and Communications, told the publication.
Dino Simoncelli, The Union League Club’s Assistant General Manager, told Crain’s Chicago Business that baristas at “One” serve up drinks from four proprietary blends by C&S Coffee Roasters, a private-label company in Forest Park, Ill. that is owned by a club member, Members exiting after a workout at the gym upstairs can also grab yogurt and housemade sandwiches.
The 2,000-sq. ft. space, outfitted in a modern mix of black- painted wood, light walls and leather banquettes and club chairs, is equipped with wi-fi and charging stations, Crain’s Chicago Business reported. A console underneath a television in the corner hides printers.
A rotating selection of the club’s renowned art collection, currently including a sculpture by Richard Hunt and paintings by Fritzi Brod and Roger Brown, will be displayed in the space, along with archived photographs of the club and city.
As part of a total of $2.3 million spent during the club’s latest renovation phase, an eighth-floor, 900-sq. ft. outdoor terrace with patio seating, a new marble fireplace and weather-proof televisions, was also created in a previously unused space that housed mechanical equipment for the building, to provide members with another unique spot for gathering, relaxing and enjoying informal meetings.
C&RB featured earlier phases of The Union League Club of Chicago’s renovation in its November 2015 issue (“Designing a New Destiny”). And the 5,000-member club now has tentative plans to move forward with a three-to-five-year plan to modernize the rest of its building’s first floor, Crain’s Chicago Business reported.
“Our competition isn’t other clubs—it’s our members’ time,” said Wike. “We’re always looking for ways to remain relevant to their lives.”