The City Council tonight approved plans for an 18-story, 165-unit condominium development on the long-vacant property at 1881 Oak Ave. in Research Park.

The alderman split 6-3 on the Carroll Place project, located on the southeast corner of Oak and Emerson Street.

Alderman Edmund Moran, 6th Ward, said he believes the building is too tall for the neighborhood, would cast shadows on buildings to the north and would add to traffic congestion.

The developer’s architect, Patrick Fitzgerald, replied that most of the day, most of the year the building would not cast shadows on its neighbors.

Alderman Cheryl Wollin, 1st Ward, opposed the project, noting that 256 people had signed petitions in opposition to it. But Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, who favored the project, said only 13 people who signed the petitions live within 1,000 feet of the site. “That people in Rogers Park are against this building doesn’t mean that much to me,” she said.

Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, said people in her ward are appalled that the council is considering the project. She said residents want the council to follow a clear plan and not decide projects on a case-by-case basis.

Alderman Steve Bernstein, 4th Ward, said “some of my constitutents decry height, but there’s a far greater outcry over high taxes.”

“If this project gets in the ground quickly, it means $l.6 million in the city’s pocket the first year,” Ald. Bernstein said, and then, after the tax increment financing district expires in 2008, “the schools will win big-time from then on.”

Aldermen Hansen, Holmes, Jean-Baptiste and Tisdahl also voted in favor of the project.

The Carroll Place development will be built on this lot, which has been vacant for two decades and in recent years has featured the abandoned foundation from a previous development effort.

The aldermen rejected a staff recommendation to force the developer to contribute $100,000 toward improved traffic signals on Emerson Street.

Developer Robert King had already offered to provide $200,000 in community benefits — $165,000 for affordable housing and $35,000 for either youth job training or painting the Metra viaduct on Emerson Street.

The aldermen voted to add traffic signal improvements as a third option for spending the $35,000.

Mr. King had already promised to a goal of hiring 20 Evanston residents in the construction of the project. The aldermen voted to increase the target to 25 residents.

And they added a provision that the cornerstones from the Butler and Emerson YMCA buildings that formerly occupied the site be incorporated into the plaza in front of the new development.

The project approved Monday is the third design the developer submitted for the site since last fall. In addition to the changes in the look of the building, the biggest modification since the original design is an increase in the number of parking spaces from 175 to 247.

The Plan Commission had voted 5-3 against the project.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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1 Comment

  1. Emerson is NOT Downtown Evanston
    To say I am thoroughly disgusted with the decision to go forward with this project in its current form is putting it mildly. A ten-story building would be fine, but this 18 story monolith is way out of context with neighboring buildings and is NOT appropriate for a transition zone. Spot zoning on a “case-by-case basis” is total bunk. I thought the council was getting the message of what many citizens want — PLANNING — but obviously the message has not gotten through yet. The congestion caused by this project will only add to the already problematic area. The factoid tossed out at last night’s meeting that probably more than half the traffic in and out of Evanston utilizes Emerson is frightening — and from my experience of driving this route 4 times daily very true.

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