A few things might come to mind when you think what a gay hotel might look like.
The Out Chicago, a proposed hotel in Boystown, won’t be many of them.
“There’s no floral, there’s no stripes, there’s no rainbow flags, there’s not pink,” says Ian Reisner, managing partner at Parkview Developers, which is spearheading the project. “I want it to be sleek, chic, contemporary, timeless — and I want it to be something that does not connect to gay or straight. Just good design.”
The latest plans call for an eight-story, 125-room boutique hotel at Halsted and Roscoe — earlier proposals for 10 and 12 stories were opposed by neighborhood groups.
One thing that’s decided: The rooms will be decorated in a color palette similar to the Out New York, a 105-room sister spot opened in Hell’s Kitchen last year.
“Black, white and gray — everything is straight lines, very contemporary,” says Chicago architect Jackie Koo of Koo Associates, who’s designing the project’s exterior and interiors.
Reisner sees being at the Out Chicago “kind of like being on a cruise ship,” with cabaret acts, a casual, small-plates restaurant, and lounge areas. All rooms will face into an atrium to encourage guests to get out of their rooms and into common areas.
“In any one corridor you can see across to the huge atrium to other rooms’ doors, creating a constant communal experience — where you want to see and be seen,” Reisner says.
Five percent of the rooms will be what Reisner called “shared luxury accommodations,” or shared rooms at discounted rates. (Rooms in Chicago haven’t been priced yet, but rooms in New York start at $269.) Reisner says the shared rooms will be a far cry from cramped bunks in a hostel — each full-size bed has privacy curtains and a 22-inch TV.
He says other open areas, like lounges, conference spaces and a rooftop deck will be spots for weddings, events, art exhibitions and fashion shows.
“Smart, stylish, forward design; amazing food; great music; very ambient lighting are all things that clearly appeal to everybody but are often associated with gay folks,” Reisner says, noting that about 40 percent of Out NYC customers are straight. “We’re much much more hetero-friendly than we ever thought.”
The Out is at the forefront of a shift from gay guesthouses to straight-friendly LGBT-branded hotels, says David Paisley, senior research director at San Francisco-based Community Marketing, which specializes in the LGBT community.
“I think they’re appealing to this younger crowd that’s more integrated, more urban, more design-oriented and looking for fun when they’re on vacation,” Paisley says. “[Out] is really trying to create a more integrated environment, but still an environment where a gay person can find a little bit more than your typical branded corporate hotel.”
Community Marketing’s most recent LGBT travel survey lists Chicago as the third most popular spot for leisure travel for gay men behind New York and San Francisco, as well as the fourth most popular for lesbian leisure travelers.
“Chicago is one of the top five destinations now. It’s being fueled by younger people who are Out’s demographic,” Paisley says. “It’s a really smart place for Out to expand to.”
PHOTO: A guest room in New York’s Out hotel.