WIN: Hotel Julian’s Adaptive Reuse Successfully Mixes Old and New

Hotel Julian/Atlantic Bank Building by Benjamin Marshall, 168 North Michigan Avenue. Before and After, Photo Credit : WMA Engineering
Hotel Julian/Atlantic Bank Buildingby Benjamin Marshall, 168 North Michigan Avenue. Photo Credit Stacey Wescott / Chicago Tribune

The Atlantic Bank Building was built as a 12-story terra cotta office building and has been successfully converted to boutique hotel called Hotel Julian. Named for the patron saint of travelers, the 218-room Hotel Julian underwent a comprehensive $75 million-plus renovation which included a five-story addition. Despite its location at 168 N. Michigan Avenue and design by notable Chicago architect Benjamin Marshall in 1912, the Atlantic Bank Building was never designated a Chicago landmark.

The Atlantic Bank Building was designed by Benjamin Marshall and his firm architectural firm Marshall & Fox. They designed many important Chicago landmark buildings including The Drake, The Blackstone, The Blackstone Theater/ Merle Reskin Theatre, the Edgewater Beach Hotel & Apartments, South Shore Country Club, the Sheridan Trust and Savings Bank Building in Uptown, and several prominent Chicago apartment buildings on Lake Shore Drive.

The Atlantic Bank Building had been largely vacant for over a decade prior to the renovation and the exterior creamy-white terra-cotta façade was in severely deteriorated condition. As part of the renovation, the Chicago-based Oxford Capital Group and London-based Quandrum Global developer team replaced over a third of the terra cotta. Additionally, the project architects Hirsch/MPG desire for a seamless and accurate terra cotta restoration included a search of the Benjamin Marshall archives at the University of Texas for original design drawings.

Preservation Chicago applauds Oxford CEO John Rutledge and the development team for their commitment for pursing excellence and insuring a top-tier restoration for an important Chicago building, by an important Chicago architect, on one Chicago’s most important streets.

“It’s a Benjamin Marshall building, so it has great architectural prominence. When we bought the building it had been sitting empty and it had been exposed to the Chicago weather, so it was definitely in bad shape. We had to do some structural reinforcements and augment the foundation, and the terra cotta facade was completely falling apart.” said John Rutledge (Ori, Chicago Tribune, 8/3/18) Its not easy to design a modern addition to a historic building, but the Hirsch architecture team, including principals Howard Hirsch and David Genc and associate Matthew Starman, were successful in their solution.

According to Chicago Tribune Architecture Critic Blair Kamin, “Instead of the obvious — pile terra cotta atop terra cotta — the architects came up with a solution inspired by the chamfered piers. They placed a faceted glass wall, which resembles the pleats of a dress, atop the original building. Then they extended the glass downward and into the facade’s window openings. The idea was to weave a thread of continuity between top and bottom, old and new.”

“Unfortunately, the treatment is so subtle that it will be imperceptible to most passers-by. They’re liable to think that architects put a glass top on an old building and called it a day. But look closely and you’ll see how the new glass quietly echoes the old terra-cotta skin through its vertical proportions, sculptural presence and jewellike play of light. Here, the present brings new vitality to the past without overwhelming it.” (Kamin, Chicago Tribune, 10/10/18)

Oxford Capital Group and John Rutledge represent a new generation of developers who continue to recognizing the inherent value of Chicago’s historic buildings and are leading their redevelopment. The growing recognition within the Chicago real estate community of the inherent ability of historic buildings to drive greater profits has been confirmed by the success of the London House Hotel in the London Guarantee Building, the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel in the Chicago Athletic Association Building, Chicago Motor Club Hampton Inn, St. Jane Hotel in the Carbide and Carbon Building , The Alise Chicago in the Reliance Building, the Ace Hotel, and the Kimpton Hotel Gray in the New York Life Building.

For more info on great historic Chicago hotels, check out 16 downtown hotels packed with Chicago history; From boutique mansions to historic renovations, by Amy Bizzarri, Curbed Chicago, October 15, 2018

Additional Reading
Column: Small but sexy: New Chicago hotel near Millennium Park combines past and present, Blair Kamin, Chicago Tribune, 10/11/18

Column: Michigan Avenue eyesore to open as $75 million hotel after years of neglect, Ryan Ori, Chicago Tribune, 8/3/18

Oxford Venture Announces Hotel Julian

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