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Bank tower retail plan gets more time

Evanston aldermen voted Monday to give owners of the Chase Bank tower more time to revise plans for adding new retail space around its base.

But several of them balked at the idea floated by the owners of the tower at 1603 Orrington Ave. that the city should help pay to relocate the tower’s parking garage entrance as part of the redevelopment plan.

"I support this 100 percent," Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, said, except for the part about cost sharing.

Alderman Anjana Hansen, 9th Ward, said, "I have exactly the same concerns." And she urged city staff to fully brief the aldermen on any proposed city funding.

Alderman Steve Bernstein, 4th Ward, said, "I don’t remember any conversation in which we authorized staff to negotiate" city participation in the cost.

David Reifman, the attorney for owners Lowe Enterprises and Golub & Company, said he understood the aldermen’s concerns but said the developers hoped to achieve some common goals with the site revisions. "If you like them, we’ll go forward," he said.

The owners have been meeting with city staff to consider revisions to the site plan since last April, a few months after Lowe Enterprises bought ownership of the property.

The plaza around the bank building has been criticized as being a windswept space that adds little life to the street, something the new retail proposal is designed to address.

The existing parking ramp into the garage occupies most of the Orrington Avenue street frontage in front of the development, eliminating on-street parking and, at least in the view of some observers, making the space even less inviting to pedestrians.

An ordinance approving revisions to the now 38-year-old property was approved in June 2005 and gave the developers until January 2008 to finish the work.

The vote Monday extends the project completion date until April 30, 2008, but if talks about the revisions are successful, the aldermen will need to approve another extension to provide time to actually build the project.

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