Evanston aldermen Monday voted to explore what other developers may be interested in doing with the city parking lot at 1714-1720 Chicago Ave, after voting to terminate the expired contract of a developer who’d planned an office building on the site.

While a simple majority of aldermen favored approving that developer’s plan, supporters were unable to muster the supermajority of seven votes required to approve a zoning change needed for the 11-story office building project after neighbors filed a petition against the zoning change.

Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, made a referral to place a resolution on the Council’s July 8 agenda. The resolution, if approved, would direct the city manager to issue a “request for interest” from developers for the site and set a 30-day deadline for responses.

The step would be designed to get an initial response from potential developers of what they would be interested in producing on the site, rather than set a more detailed set of specifications for what the city would like to see — as is frequently done with a “request for proposals” process.

A request for proposals process might then be the next step once the Council had a better idea of what the market would potentially support.

Bobkiewicz said the city received one written offer for the property on Friday and that there have been some other inquiries about it.

Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, said he understood the proposal last week was for an apartment building and that he would rather see an office building on the property.

An apartment building, depending on its size, would not need rezoning. But because the project involves the sale of city land, it would still require favorable votes from six aldermen for approval.

Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, said the Council should restrict what ideas it would solicit. “We need to have parameters around it or we’ll get apples, oranges and bananas,” she said.

Alderman Eleanor Revelle, 7th Ward, alluding to opposition to the rejected office proposal, said, “We’ve mostly heard what people don’t want, we haven’t heard what they do want.”

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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