Architect’s rendering  of the proposed tower addition to North Shore Residence, 1611-29 Chicago Ave.  Rendering by Myefski Architects in City of Evanston information packet

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The new owner of the North Shore Residence is planning to upgrade North Shore Retirement Hotel on Chicago Avenue and is seeking City Council approval to undergo massive renovations.

In addition to a complete overhaul of the existing building, Daniel Michael – the new owner and head of Horizon Realty Group – is looking to build an eight-story tower over what is now the pool and patio area at 1611-1629 Chicago Ave. 

Planned renovations to the existing building include restoring the two-story solarium lobby to its original 1920s look and adding an indoor pool, a state-of-the-art theater, fitness center, spa, card room, game room, arts and crafts room and an active lecture and recital room. There will be a completely new dining room as well as other dining venues such as a bistro and lounge.

“We are renovating the existing building and converting 185 units to 140 units. The building used to be a hotel and had smaller rooms that we are now converting into apartments,” said John Myefski, the architect.

The rooms will get new hardwood floors, granite countertops, maple cabinetry and free Internet and satellite TV.

“Our aim is to bring them up to a first-class standard,” Mr. Myefski continued.

Even though 40 rooms will be lost due to the renovations, the new eight-story tower would add 65 more rooms.  In the end North Shore Residence would experience a net growth of 20 rooms to bring the total to 205.

However, Horizon’s ambitious plans are not without complications.  According to a document prepared by the City, the building was built before certain zoning laws were put into place and was grandfathered into the system. 

Because of the new addition, Horizon Realty will need to obtain a special use permit for both buildings to operate as an independent living facility.

The proposal falls short of the parking spaces required by the City’s zoning ordinance, and Mr. Mayefski said Horizon would rent the nine additional required spaces at a City-owned garage. He added that, since most of the residents are between 75 and 85 years old, few of them own cars.  

The City’s affordable housing ordinance – which requires all owner-operated residences to set aside at least 10 percent of the units for persons with low or moderate incomes or make a payment to the City’s affordable housing fund – does not apply to North Shore Residence because it is a rental complex. Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl nonetheless requested that a number of the units be set aside as affordable housing for seniors. (See sidebar)

By City ordinance, the new structure will need to be certified as Silver LEED by the U.S. Green Building Council. To obtain that level of certification the building will need 50-60 points.

“We are very excited that the new building will be LEED certified silver.  Our goal is to have 53 or 54 points,” said Mr. Myefski. 

Mr. Myefski said they plan to reach that goal by using building materials with recycled components and energy-efficient heating, cooling, water, and lighting systems. A reflective white roof  will host a rooftop garden.

“The rooftop garden will be indigenous or plants that have been approved for the region. Most of the plants will not need watering because they are able to live off of the environment,” said Mr. Myefski.

City Council is likely to vote on the proposed renovations and expansions, the request for a special use and the Mayor’s affordable-housing request at the Aug. 12 meeting. “We are very optimistic and excited that we will be starting the construction in October,” said Mr. Myefski. 

Is Affordable-Housing Set-Aside Necessary at NSR?

Whether the project will have 10 percent of its housing allocated as “affordable” will be a matter for the full City Council to decide.

Alderman Jane Grover, 7th Ward, asked whether the City’s affordable-housing ordinance has been applied to other senior housing.

Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, said she was “thrilled” about the project. To the developers and the architect she said she was “concerned that an affordable-housing requirement might cause a hardship for you.” She said she would encourage her colleagues not to impose an affordable-housing requirement on the project.

Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, said the mandated affordable-housing set-aside applies only to owner-occupied units, not rental units. “The ordinance doesn’t apply – we can’t just make stuff up; the ordinance says what it says.

Eighth Ward Alderman Ann Rainey said that the City already has a “significant number” of affordable units for seniors, such as Primm Towers and the 1900 Sherman Ave. building.

City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz told the Committee members that he believed that Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl was concerned about affordable housing for seniors and she had requested the set-aside.

Alderman Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, said she supported the affordable-housing set-aside for this North Shore Residence project. “It could give the opportunity to some folks who may want to live in the downtown area but can’t afford it.”