Office project crosses another hurdle

Bruce Larson one of the developers on the proposed office building.

Evanston aldermen voted 7-2 Monday night to introduce a contract to sell the city parking lot at 1714-1718 Chicago Ave. for development as an 11-story office building.

The sale still needs a two-thirds vote at the Council's Sept. 25 meeting to win final approval.

Aldeman Robin Rue Simmons, 5th Ward, this morning said she still has more questions to ask about the project before she'd be prepared to give final approval for the sale.

Rue Simmons said she was initially concerned about the aesthetics of the project, but since winning election to the Council she's become more aware of the city's budget crunch, which could be eased by the $4 million sale price, and the economic benefits of the 500 additional jobs that the project could bring to the city.

But Rue Simmons says she still wants to be sure that the Woman's Club of Evanston property next door won't be harmed by the development and that the club's leaders accept it.

Woman's Club of Evanston President Rona Green Taylor speaks to aldermen, backed by club board members.

At Monday night's meeing Club President Rona Green Taylor said club leaders now believe they can work with the developer on the project -- and that their main concern is to make sure that their century-old building isn't damaged during the construction process.

Bruece Larson, one of the project developers, said he'd had numerous meetings with club leaders and assured them that appropriate steps would be taken to make sure the construction work didn't damage the Woman's Club.

Larson said the project would generate $2 million a year in tax revenue for the city and that he's not asking for any subsidy from the city for the project.

Other speakers at the meeting offered a variety of opinions about the deal. Carl Klein said the project would violate the downtown plan. And Clare Kelly said it would degrade the city.

But Mike Ragusso said the city needs the additional revenue the project would generate and John O'Malley said he believes there's strong demand among local businesses for the space.

Assuming the sale of the property is approved later this month, the project will still need to go through the city's planned development process, which likely means it would be an additional six months or more before construction could begin.

Aldermen Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, and Eleanor Revelle, 7th Ward, voted against the project Monday night.

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