Navy Pier Inc., the non-profit operator of Chicago's Navy Pier, is seeking proposals from private developers to finance, construct and operate a 150- to 225-room hotel on the 30-acre property, currently Illinois' largest tourist attraction. 

As planned, the five-story hotel would be sited atop a two-story facility currently housing restaurant and entertainment uses. The hotel also would be sited adjacent to an existing 170,000-sq-ft exhibit hall.

Pier officials at a community meeting last week indicated a hotel and other planned renovations would help transition the 98-year-old-property from a seasonal “carnival”-like attraction to a year-round venue more focused on landscaping and adult-oriented attractions.

Upgrades currently under way include an overhaul of existing park spaces and exterior walkways, in addition to construction of a fountain that will serve as an ice rink during winter months. The $115 million project, funded by the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, is due for completion in 2016, in time for the pier's centennial anniversary.

The hotel would mark the second phase of a multi-year effort to modernize the 3,300-ft-long pier, which re-opened as an entertainment district in 1995. To proceed with the project, Navy Pier Inc. would need to address an ordinance that prohibits private development east of Lake Shore Drive, where the pier is sited. Plans also require approval by the Chicago Planning Commission.

The pier currently attracts 9 million visitor per year, 70% of whom hail from metropolitan Chicago. Pier officials expect to draw an additional 2 million visitors per year once modernization efforts are complete.