Evanston aldermen voted tonight to accept the Plan Commission’s recommendation and deny a developer’s request to build an 18-story high-rise building called Optima Promenade at 1515 Chicago Ave. Chris Westerberg of 525 Grove St., a leader of neighborhood opposition to the project, said she was gratified that the aldermen understood concerns neighbors raised. She said any future development proposal for the site needs to better address the neighbors’ concerns about traffic congestion in the alley behind the site and the need for more space between the new building and existing residences. All eight aldermen present for the meeting voted against the development. Alderman Anjana Hansen, 9th Ward, was absent. View from the northwest of a model of the rejected Optima Promenade project. (Optima photo) The aldermen did not discuss a revision to the proposal submitted from the developer that would have reduced the building’s height by 20 feet, increased the width of the alley behind the building by three feet, increased other setbacks and relocated the rear loading dock to the north end of the building. Nor did they discuss a staff recommendation to reduce the building’s height by an additional 20 feet, to 145 feet, and cut 20 condo units from the 175 proposed in the developer’s revised plan. In rejecting the proposal, the city takes a pass on a project forecast to generate $508,000 in real estate taxes for the city and roughly $1.5 million in net tax increases to Evanston’s schools. In recent years the Optima organization has won approval to build three other high-rises in the city:

  • Optima Horizons, on Elgin Road, originally proposed as a 36-story, 345-foot tower, but reduced in the face of community opposition to a 16-story, 162-foot building. It was completed in 2005.
  • Optima Views, on Maple Avenue, at 28 stories and 265 feet is the tallest residential building in any Chicago suburb. It was completed in 2003.
  • Optima Towers, at Fountain Square, a 13-story, 136-foot building completed in 2002.

In urging the council to reject the Optima Promenade proposal, Alderman Cheryl Wollin, 1st Ward, said the site in her ward was “a very fragile transition area between downtown and residential neighorhoods. This particular architectural plan,” she added, “is really insensitive to the context of the neighborhood.” The proposal had won praise from James Torvik of Design Evanston, who called it “an excellent example of a fine downtown building” and from Jonathan Perman of the Chamber of Commerce who said the development, which included retail and commercial space, would attract more diners and shoppers to downtown.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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