Fourteen months after the city first started considering the sale of a downtown parking lot for the site of an office building, Evanston aldermen Monday are scheduled to get a contract to actually sell the land.

This will be the first chance for the three new members of the City Council elected in April to weigh in on the plan to turn the parking lot at 1714-18 Chicago Ave., commonly referred to as the library lot, into an 11-story office building with about 136,000 square feet of space for as many as 500 additional office-worker jobs.

The last City Council had voted 6-2 against the project in late April, but then reversed direction and approved it by a 6-2 vote at their final meeting early in May.

The development had originally been proposed as a 14-story building with 207,000 square feet of space. But after neighboring proerty owners and some aldermen balked at the height, three stories were lopped off the design.

A rendering of the Chicago Avenue streetscape with the office building added.

That also resulted in a price cut from $5 million to $4 million in the proceeds the city will receive for selling the land.

The contract gives the developer the right to back out of the deal if the city doesn’t approve zoning changes needed to build the 11-story structure.

The project is seen by city officials as a way to bring more customers to downtown retail stores and restaurants and enhance the city’s tax base.

The office vacancy rate in Evanston, which was above 10 percent earlier this decade, now has fallen to below six percent, according to the latest data from CoStar Realty Information.

Because it involves the sale of city land, the contract, which is schedule for final approval at the Sept. 25 Council meeting, will require support from two-thirds of the aldermen to pass.

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Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Hard to understand

    With the buildings on Emerson from Maple to Metra tracks [old Research Park] that sat vacant for so long, I’m sure other buildings/offices also, it is very odd that the vacancy rate is so low. Are so many Evanston buildings unattractive for some reason and only a few business wants to occupy, that it makes the stated rate sound so low ? Do some buildings have such high rent that only those with more ‘reasonable’ rent can attract business ?

    1. Where’ve you been?

      The 500 Davis building and the 1007 Church building went through financial distress after the real estate market collapse last decade but have since recovered.

      In Research Park, the 1890 Maple building “that sat vacant for so long” has been replaced with the E2 apartment complex, and the 1840 Maple building has been bought by Northwestern University.

      The CoStar data, while it isn’t necessarily perfect, is the best available and has tracked the vacancy rates through the years for all available space — regardless of the rental level.

      It would seem you haven’t been keeping up.

      — Bill

      1. All due respect, yours is

        All due respect, yours is kind of a snippy response. The original comment didn’t sound like a criticism or a question of your reporting. Why the nasty reaction?

        1. Ah …

          I do sometimes get a bit disappointed when people, who I know are daily visitors to the site — as the person who posed the question in this case is — seem to be largely unaware of what’s been happening in town.

          Makes me wonder whether I’m wasting my time.

          So, a bit snippy, OK, I’ll plead guilty. Nasty? No.

          — Bill

  2. Overshadowing Women’s History!

    There are numerous problems with this proposed development. The massive scale of these buildings creates an inhospitable streetscape, and the traffic congestion discourages people from shopping in downtown Evanston. I question the theory that greater density stimulates a city’s economy, which has seemingly not been born out by Evanston’s recent history (think Research Park, 1800 Sherman, etc.). It sounds to me more like investors looking for a place to park their money, and developers developing because… that’s what they do!

    Adding an estimated 500 building users along with service vehicles will adversely impact alley traffic. This will increase dangers for children, elderly, and disabled library patrons dropped off at the east entrance. It will also exacerbate the already treacherous traffic situation around Chicago Avenue and Clark Street on one side, and Chicago Avenue and Church Street on the other. Pedestrians and bicyclists will be put at greater risk by having to contend with the additional cars and oversized vehicles, especially at rush hour.

    The proposed building does not match the 2009 Downtown Evanston Plan, which designates developing the library parking lot as a public park. An 11-story privately-owned office tower does not philosophically suit the neighborhood context, nor does it physically conform to the historical architecture of the surrounding buildings, not to mention the actual zoning requirements. The sale of the lot would only be a temporary fix for city budget problems, and we would be left with the sacrifice of our public land forever after.

    Also, this tower would be developed right next door to the Frances Willard House Museum and Archives and the Woman’s Club of Evanston. The inappropriateness of the location is only compounded by the fact that it would be literally overshadowing woman’s history.

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