The Hotel Julian as seen from Michigan Avenue on Oct. 11, 2018 in Chicago.(Stacey Wescott / Chicago Tribune)
A mural of noted Chicago architect Benjamin Marshall is prominently positioned on the ground floor of the Hotel Julian, which now occupies the former home of the Atlantic Bank Building, designed by Marshall in the early 20th century.(Stacey Wescott / Chicago Tribune)
Floor-to-ceiling windows are on the Michigan Avenue side of guest rooms on the top five stories of the Hote Julian, where a modern, five-story addition caps the historic building.(Terrence Antonio James/Chicago Tribune)
The terra cotta facade on the bottom and glass addition on the top of Hotel Julian as seen from Michigan Avenue on Oct. 11, 2018 in Chicago.(Stacey Wescott / Chicago Tribune)
The west-facing exterior of the Hotel Julian shows the lighter bottom and dark top on Sept. 24, 2018.(Terrence Antonio James/Chicago Tribune)
Veronica Cervantes cleans a stairwell papered with portraits in the Hotel Julian on Oct. 11, 2018 in Chicago.(Stacey Wescott / Chicago Tribune)
Row after row of black-and-white portraits — each with the person’s eyes crossed out in colorful paint — line a stairwell inside Hotel Julian. “We’re all about people here at the hotel,” said Daniel Grajdura, sales and marketing director.(Terrence Antonio James/Chicago Tribune)
A spartan desk and 55-inch flat-screen TV line a guest room wall at the Hotel Julian.(Terrence Antonio James/Chicago Tribune)
Every guest room comes with an espresso machine at the Hotel Julian.(Terrence Antonio James/Chicago Tribune)
Hotel Julian’s 30-seat restaurant, About Last Knife, features folding glass doors that open to the sidewalk.(Terrence Antonio James/Chicago Tribune)
The bathroom is tucked behind a barn door, one of the design elements used to save space in the snug guest rooms at the Hotel Julian.(Terrence Antonio James/Chicago Tribune)
The view of Millennium Park as seen from room 1414 in the Hotel Julian on Oct. 11, 2018 in Chicago.(Stacey Wescott / Chicago Tribune)
A blue velvet lounge chair in room 1414 at the Hotel Julian on Oct. 11, 2018 in Chicago.(Stacey Wescott / Chicago Tribune)
A mural — it’s not vintage, but created for the new space — is painted on original brick that’s more than a century old. To the left of it is another piece of art: a circular wooden board with knives protruding from it — a nod to the hotel’s steak-focused restaurant, About Last Knife.(Terrence Antonio James/Chicago Tribune)
All of the Hotel Julian’s 218 rooms have showers, not tubs.(Terrence Antonio James/Chicago Tribune)
At the Hotel Julian, one window per guest room can be cracked open, letting in the sounds of the city and a bit of fresh air.(Terrence Antonio James/Chicago Tribune)
At the Hotel Julian, one of the drawers built into the bed frame contains a safe big enough for a laptop computer.(Terrence Antonio James/Chicago Tribune)
After years of sitting vacant and literally falling apart, a Michigan Avenue eyesore had a major facelift and will be reborn Oct. 1 as a “luxury lifestyle hotel.”
“We don’t want to consider ourselves 5-star or 4-star; we’re calling it 4.2,” Hotel Julian’s director of sales and marketing, Daniel Grajdura, said during a recent sneak peek of the soon-to-open property at 168 N. Michigan Ave.
The 218-room hotel kitty-corner from Millennium Park doesn’t have any suites, bathtubs, spa, meeting space or multiple food and beverage outlets — the kind of features traditionally found in lodging on the highest end of the spectrum.
“We’re a modern luxury hotel with an emphasis on service and technology,” Grajdura said about the $75-plus million project.
Occupying the white terra cotta-clad shell of the former Atlantic Bank Building, the Julian is a mashup of old and new, an “original remix,” as staff like to call it.
The 12-story structure built in 1912 was designed by noted Chicago architect Benjamin Marshall, the same man behind the Drake and Blackstone hotels. His dapper visage graces a mural in the Julian’s restaurant and lounge, on a wall made up of original brick.
Marshall’s plan called for making the high-rise a few stories taller — a wish granted more than a century later, when hotel developers topped it off with a five-story, pleated glass addition designed by Chicago’s Hirsch Associates.
These newly built rooms on the Michigan Avenue side of the building feature floor-to-ceiling windows; they’re priced at about a $40 premium.
The hotel’s overnight rates hover between $200 and $300 in October. That price could dip down to $99 in January and February, “when Chicago hotels are giving rooms away,” Grajdura said. Come June, that same room can shoot up to $600 or $700, he added.
Like a lot of downtown hotels, especially those with older bones, the Julian’s guest rooms are on the snug side. Designers made the most of the cozy confines. Drawers pull out from the base of the bed for storage. A spartan desk juts out of the wall, giving guests “enough room for a computer and a glass of wine, because that’s really all you need,” Grajdura said. The bathroom is tucked behind a space-saving barn door.
A neutral color palate dominates the contemporary-style rooms, with soft lighting, brass fixtures and caramel leather headboards on beds covered in crisp, white Frette linens.
Each room has an espresso machine as well as a window that can be cracked open to let in the sounds of the city and a bit of fresh air.
The in-room technology is “smart,” from 55-inch flat-screen TVs where guests can stream their own movies to motion-sensing thermostats and mini-fridges, whose temperatures can be adjusted to quickly chill a bottle of a wine or store leftovers. Wi-Fi is free. Guests can reach hotel staff via text message to order room service.
The hotel’s restaurant, About Last Knife (ALK), is scheduled to open not long after the hotel, on Oct. 4.
ALK will focus on steak, which helps explain the art in the form of a giant wooden circle hanging from the wall, with butcher knives protruding from it.
“The restaurant has one menu all day long, so you can have your beef Wellington at 7 a.m. if you want,” Grajdura said.
ALK is under the command of executive chef Dan Weiland, who’s done turns at Blackbird, Avec and, most recently, West Town’s botanic brewery, Forbidden Root.
The hotel’s ground floor — a high-ceilinged space filled with a mix of warm wood, modern furniture and light gray hues — shares its footprint with the lobby, restaurant, a bar and a lounge. Starting next spring, the lounge will spill out onto Michigan Avenue, courtesy of the facade’s accordion-like glass doors that open onto sidewalk seating.
The Julian has two entrances: one on busy Michigan Avenue and a lesser-trafficked one to the west, on Garland Court, where guests can valet for $72 a night.
Oxford Hotels & Resorts, an affiliate of Chicago-based Oxford Capital Group, will manage the Julian, named for St. Julian the Hospitaller, the patron saint of innkeepers and travelers. Oxford developed the property in a joint venture with London-based Quadrum Global.
After launching in Chicago in 2014, the Godfrey brand has been busy expanding to other cities.
“That’s the plan for the Julian too,” Grajdura said. “But first, we have to open this one.”