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Aldermen to debate tower time extension

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Evanston aldermen are scheduled to vote tonight on giving developers of the proposed 35-story condo tower on the Fountain Square block an extra three years to start construction.

The planned development at 708 Church St. was initially approved in March 2009 on a 6-3 vote — the minimum required for the project, which needed a super-majority, two-thirds vote by aldermen.

Since then the composition of the council has changed dramatically.

Two opponents of the project then — Elizabeth Tisdahl and Steve Bernstein — are no longer aldermen. Tisdahl, now mayor, won't have a vote tonight unless there's a tie.

Three supporters — Lionel Jean-Baptiste, Edmund Moran, and Anjana Hansen — have also stepped down. And one, 1st Ward alderman Cheryl Wollin, was defeated by tower opponent Judy Fiske.

Fiske is expected to be joined tonight in voting no by Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, who voted against the tower in 2009.

How many other new council members will join the yes votes from 2009 — Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, and Ann Rainey, 8th Ward — will determine the outcome.

Proposals for one or more tower buildings on the block had been floated as early as 2006, but by the time the winning plan won approval, the housing market was already in sharp decline and the developers were granted nearly five years — until the end of this year — instead of the customary three, to begin construction.

At the time the vote was taken, supporters of the plan expressed hope for an economic recovery, while opponents, like Tisdahl, feared that the city would be over-saturated with condo units.

But Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th ward, said at the time that the council would look foolish if they didn't approve the proposal and the economy improved.

Initially proposed as a 49-story tower by developers Tim Anderson and James Klutznick in 2007, the project shrank as it went through the city's review process.

An amendment proposed by former Alderman Anjana Hansen, 9th Ward, and attached to the final approval of the development plans, requires the developers to attain silver LEED status for the building.

Completion of the planned development may still be a long way off if the proposed extension is granted by City Council tonight. If approved, the developers would have until Dec. 31, 2016 to obtain a building permit for the project — which would put the likely completion date sometime in 2018. 

The discussion will begin tonight at the Planning and Development Committee meeting, which is scheduled to begin at 7:15 p.m.

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