By Matt Simonette
Owners of the The Merion, 1611 Chicago Ave., in downtown Evanston are in the initial stages of proposing a 19-story luxury rental property at 1621-31 Chicago Ave., immediately to the north of the senior community.
The new development would replace a one-story building currently at the location.
Jeffrey Michael, Chief Operating Officer of Horizon Realty Group, which owns The Merion, said, “We believe that there is a great opportunity, and a need for a facility that would be co-branded with The Merion. We haven’t decided if it would be age-restricted per se, but the general design and intent would be geared towards empty-nesters, with the idea that this would be a ‘staging ground’ or ‘step before’ for someone interested in living at the Merion.”
The new development, named The Legacy, would feature 33 studio, 120 one-bedroom, 82 two-bedroom and five three-bedroom units ranging from 593-2,193 square feet, according to company officials. The Legacy would also contain 3,524 square feet of retail space on the ground floor.
Horizon plans rents to be about $3 per square foot, and would feature “exquisite finishes and designer-brand materials,” Mr. Michael added. “It would be a lot different from the recent product that has gone up in Evanston.”
He said that the project was ideally located, given its proximity to a grocery, movie theater and other features of downtown Evanston: “Of course, you have the lake and a lot of classes offered by Northwestern—we’re excited about offering that opportunity for residents to take advantage of. That location speaks for itself in terms of its offerings,” said Mr. Michael, who noted that residents would also be able to utilize some amenities at The Merion.
Horizon scaled back an initial plan for 28 stories to its current 19 after some community pushback. The new facility would have 85 parking spots; Horizon would also rent spots in the parking facility at Chicago Avenue and Church Street for those unable to obtain spots in the building’s lot. The Legacy would feature a curb cut off of Chicago Avenue leading to a porte-cochere within property lines to minimize disrupting traffic when vehicles load or unload.
Developers would contribute about $2.4 million to the City’s Affordable Housing Fund; they estimate the project would generate about $900,000 in additional property taxes annually as well as 18 full-time, long-term jobs. They further estimate the project would take about 18 months to complete once full City approvals are received.
“We’re excited because this is a part of Chicago Avenue that is currently being under-utilized,” Mr. Michael said. “The structure there now is an old, dilapidated single-story retail strip center, and its current use is obsolete. Tenants these days are looking for 13-foot ceilings and amenities. It’s a tough building to deal with in terms of space. This is going to be the best use of the space, and a beneficial addition to the block.”