Work is still underway to transform the tired North Shore Retirement Hotel in Evanston into a more upscale retirement rental property called The Merion — but it’s far enough along that the owners of Horizon Realty Group showed off their progress Tuesday evening.

The Crystall Ballroom.

Beyond the updated Davis Street entrance, the restored Crystal Ballroom is already booking dinner events for up to 200 guests, says Horizon owner Jeff Michael.

Jeff Michael showing off the new menu in the pub-style dining room.

The dining options for residents have also been expanded, with three dining areas backed by an enlarged kitchen space.

The main dining room.

Michael says renovations to the first floor public areas are almost complete — except for the Chicago Avenue entrance that was recently closed off for a facelift.

The lobby, which had been chopped up into office space, has been opened up to its original size — convenient for receptions. And there’s also a library, with memorabilia from the S.S. Merion, the ship on which Michael’s great grandfather immigrated to America.

More public spaces in the building’s basement, including a fitness center and theater, are still on the renovation list.

Upstairs, Michael says, apartments in the north half of the building have been renovated.

The living room of a model apartment.

The hotel, which had 185 units when Horizon bought it, will have 140 when work to combine many of the smaller units is completed.

The renovated units still show their origin as hotel rooms in relatively tight floor plans, but they’ve been completely redone, with new compact kitchens and baths.

The units at The Merion are being rented fully furnished. Michael says that about 40 units are occupied now.

The bedroom of a model apartment.

Horizon also plans to start construction soon on an eight-story addition, just north of the existing building, that will add 63 new units to the property. 

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Nobody ever mentions what the

    Nobody ever mentions what the new rental price is and whether the renovation drove people out because of that price increase. (I'm guessing it did.)

    1. Hi Jim! Thanks for your

      Hi Jim! Thanks for your comment. The rental price surprisingly remains very close to what residents were paying prior to the renovations. Also, we are now offering more flexible daily, weekly, monthly, and 13-month contracts.

      Despite the construction, many of our residents have stayed with us and are very pleased with the building’s transformation!

      Please let me know if you have any other questions and if you'd like, email to make sure you receive an invite to our grand opening later this year :).

      The Merion Management

  2. The Merion

    Recently I notified the architect for the renovation of the NS Hotel about the tax advantages of having a landmark.

    These include the Class L tax freeze offered by Cook County, where the assessed valuation is frozen for eight years, then brought up to current in four more years. The other advantage is the federal rehabilitation income tax credit which can be sold before use if desired to an interested buyer. This could potentially be worth several million upfront dollars in a project the size of this one.  I also sent him the names of consultants who could advise/submit the tax applications, and another who could do the nomination.

    Several years ago, a sub-committee of the Preservation Commission was tasked by the Plan Commission with submitting a list of potential landmarks in downtown.  We strongly recommended the North Shore Hotel, due to its distinctive style, and its architect (Robert DeGolyer,  who did several houses in Evanston and apartment buildings in Chicago).

    The renovation of the Chandler's building at Davis and Orrington took advantage of these incentives, as did the work on the Homestead Hotel.

    The nomination process is not onerous, and the review by the Commission of any additions to the building is conducted thoughtfully and efficiently by the Preservation Commission, based on the Secretary of the Interiors standards (which are incorporated in our preservation ordinance).

    I never heard from the developer.  

    Clearly a missed opportunity.

    Mary O. Brugliera
    Preservation League of Evanston

    1. Distinctive style?
      I always thought that the North Shore Retirement Hotel (now The Merion) looked like a big ho-hum box. Nothing distinctive at all.

      Anyone else care to weigh in on the issue?

      1. North Shore Hotel not a box

        I think you must be thinking of a different building.  The North Shore Hotel is a tudor style building with  complex angles and roof slope.  

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