When in Rome, or Chicago: thermal baths open in former paint factory

Robert Channick, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Business News

A feature unique to Chicago is an indoor-outdoor pool, with an adjustable temperature for year-round swimming.

Massages, steam rooms, aromatherapy and a relaxation area featuring heated marble stones and refreshments are also offered.

Hourly fees run from $70 for a 90-minute dip in the thermal baths to $400 for the private wine bath plus massage. Weekend rates are slightly higher and potentially much harder to book. Barnett said there is a two-month weekend waiting list in New York.

The baths are coed and are limited to about 20 people at a time to create a "tranquil" space, Barnett said. Swimsuits are required. The facility bans cellphones and watches and also requests that patrons use their indoor voices at all times.

"We have a silence policy," she said. "We ask people to keep their voices low."

Aire has four locations in Spain, with New York opening the door to international expansion. Beyond Chicago, the company is planning to open facilities in Paris, London and a second New York location next year, with Copenhagen, Denmark, slated for 2019.

The baths are always located underground, Barnett said, to help patrons get the most out of the experience, and essentially forget where they really are.

"We want to create spaces that you can kind lose the sense of time and space," Barnett said. "It's like traveling somewhere without leaving your city."

Chicago has been in the company's sights for years, in part because of its architectural history.

"We knew that Chicago was a city that really connected with our concept of bringing back to life historical buildings, an appreciation for architecture," she said.

Built in 1902, the DeVoe building -- a four-building complex -- was converted into office spaces in the late 1980s but retains the original facade of its factory roots.

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