The site is "an entire city block essentially directly north andadjacent to the brand new, beautiful McCormick Place expansion,"Ward says. The project will have two hotel towers that are expectedto be 22 stories each. The site, which is in a TIF district and isalready zoned for hotels, is expected to have about 1,500 rooms, hesays. One tower may have 1,000 rooms as a traditional conventioncenter hotel with the other tower having 500 rooms as possibly anextended stay or other type of hotel, he says.

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The development will also likely have meeting space, possibly aballroom, retail space, restaurants and parking. Plans are in thepreliminary stage and the amount of meeting and ballroom space arethe "hardest to solve and predict how we will solve," he says. Theamount of retail space is not decided yet as well. "The South Loopis really changing and it is really becoming a 24-hour community,"Ward says. "We are trying to understand right now as to exactlywhat the demand would be." Construction could begin in 12 to 18months, with construction expecting to take two years.

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With the expansion of McCormick Place, and the city beingproactive, Chicago is becoming a "front runner" with Orlando andLas Vegas for conventions, Ward says. "McCormick Plaza has grown toprobably the premiere conference center in the US in terms ofcapacity, infrastructure and amenities," he says. "What it islacking is a large concentration of hotel rooms."

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The only other hotel in the area is the 600-room Hyatt RegencyMcCormick Place. "Adding large blocks of corporate hotel space inwalking distance or in physical connectivity to McCormick Placewill further enhance and strengthen the convention center's abilityto win and bring in new conventions," Ward says. Alter is workingwith the city on "exactly how we can connect [the hotel] to theconvention center," he says.

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