Plans for an 80-unit rental apartment complex on the former Evanston Theatre site won initial approval from aldermen Monday night.

Aldermen Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, and Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, voted against the proposal in the Planning and Development Committee, but the project was approved unanimously as a consent agenda item at the full City Council meeting.

The project, at 1700-1722 Central St., was initially approved in 2007 as a four-story, 51-unit condominium development, but it never broke ground after the recession devastated the market for condos.

Developer Bob Horne of Dodge Capital LLC says the condo market is still dead, but it’s now possible to get financing for rental projects. The new design increased the number of units and reduces the amount of parking while staying within essentially the same footprint previously approved for the project.

A diagram of the second floor of The Eastwood, showing a partial green roof over the rear garage.

Fiske said she was concerned that, as a rental development, the project, dubbed The Eastwood, would attract more student tenants, and that, in turn, would mean more turnover and congestion in the area at move-in time.

She added that she’s inclined to support the project, but believed it should be reviewed again by the Plan Commission before coming to the City Council

Wynne said she believed, based on experience in her ward, that the roughly one-space-per-unit parking ratio for the project is insufficient.

But Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, said the city should not continue to require more and more parking in buildings, because it encourages the over-use of cars.

Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, said he believes apartments are an appropriate use in the area, because it’s well served by mass transit.

Claire and John Labbe.

Some neighbors of the site, including Claire and John Labbe of 1727 Harrison St., objected to the use of Hardie Board on some exterior surfaces in the new plan, and noted that the previous condo proposal had called for an all-brick facade, while only parts of the new design would be brick-clad.

But Wilson said that because the new plan calls for rentals, it would unrealistic to expect that the finishes would be as high class as it could have been as condos.

Final approval of the project still requires another City Council vote, which is scheduled for its Oct. 10 meeting.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Fiske opposes because of students?

    Fiske said she was concerned that, as a rental development, the project, dubbed The Eastwood, would attract more student tenants, and that, in turn, would mean more turnover and congestion in the area at move-in time.

    ?Is she serious? Assuming this was even true (a serious stretch): You would oppose the project because there will be "congestion" at move in time?  Does she think on the day before classes start there will be 80 moving trucks waiting to unload there? 

    Let's also remember that Fiske has adopted anti-bike positions, so her concern with congestion seems a bit disingenuous. 

    That is really strange thinking.

    1. No dogs attached….

      There are no dogs attached to this project. So in all fairness, she probably hasn't even read it. 

    2. NU move in

      Has the writer ever witnessed student move-in days? An endless caravan of cars, trucks waiting in line to unload. At least on NU property there is someone directing traffic.

      Imagine a line of 50 moving trucks and cars…

  2. Degrading Central Street

    The new proposal for "The Eastwood" is substantially different than the planned development approved for the site in 2007.  The new proposal is for up to 80 apartments, while the original plan included only 51 units.  The new proposal has only 81 parking spaces instead of 100 spaces in the original plan.  The original plan called for parking specifically for retail employees, whereas the new plan only provides parking for the apartment dwellers.  No parking is provided for retail employees or patrons.

    And the original plan called for a distinguished, all masonry building in keeping with the character of Central Street and Evanston in general.  The new plan calls for a relatively drab building featuring masonry only on the front corners and fiber-cement siding on front middle, sides, and entire back of the building.  No one has been able to cite examples of similar-sized buildings in Evanston clad with this material.

    Although Alderman Wilson suggested that economics prevent the building of an all masonry apartment building (as opposed to a condo building), there is no evidence to support that proposition, and what evidence was presented to the P&D committee was to the contrary.  Specifically, the Reserve apartment complex at Ridge & Emerson is all masonry (except for metal details), including a rear brick wall that overlooks the City's salt storage and maintenance truck parking lot.

    Also, there is no evidence that LEED requirements call for use of fiber-cement siding.  The newest Mather building going up now at Davis & Hinman is expected to be LEED Gold certified, and it features a masonry facade.

    These are among the many reasons the amendments to the planned development for The Eastwood should have gone before the Plan Commission for further hearings before P&D and the City Council considered them.  Only the Plan Commission can ensure the opportunity for all evidence to come before the public.  The P&D committee and City Council only permit very brief citizen comments, and do not permit questioning of the developer or his consultants.  Even if the same plan had emerged from the Plan Commission, at least the public would have had a full and fair opportunity to scrutinize this new project before it's built.

    This will be the largest building on Central Street west of the NU football stadium.  It deserves more attention and debate than the City is giving it to ensure that the right project is built.  Alderman Wynne sharply questioned the parking for the new building, and Alderman Fiske said that due to the substantial changes, the project should go back to the Plan Commission for review.  Nevertheless, the P&D committee approved the plans, passing them along to the City Council without regard to the serious concerns raised before P&D.


    1. What ‘Character’

      "And the original plan called for a distinguished, all masonry building in keeping with the character of Central Street and Evanston in general."


      You have to be kidding. What 'character' ?  Like almost any area there is a wide variety of styles and within 20 years most of the buildings I assume refered to will be gone anyway.   We can't keep living and trying to make everything look like the past or we would have all wood or clay buildings.

      We are not an artist colony and not in the 18th Century.

      1. It’s about quality, not style

        Different styles might be OK.  But this is an issue of quality.  Fiber-cement siding is a relatively cheap material.  So the building will probably look cheap.  The current zoning would only permit a 3-story building on this site, and would require a 25-foot rear setback.  The proposed building will be 4-stories with a 5-foot rear setback.  In exchange for these concessions, the developer should at least agree to use high-quality materials consistent with other buildings of this size in Evanston.

        What buildings will be gone in 20 years?  The all-brick apartment buildings in this area of Central Street are all well over 50 years old.  They don't appear to be going anywhere.

    2. Serious concerns?

      Serious concerns? Seriously?  Fiske has opposed and harassed every development for as long as I can remember, nothing new there.  Parking is always raised as an armageddon issue that simply never materializes anywhere even remotely close to what people continuously claim.   

      Everything else is always nothing more than personal opinion.  Some people don't like modern buildings, some people want this or more of that or whatever.  You think this is a "drab" building and not to your interpretation of "character" but I think it fits perfectly well on that street and looks very much like many, many, many other buildings along Central st.

      My opinion and your opinion differ, but they are not "serious" matters that would prohibit P&D from approving the project.   


      1. Which buildings?

        Of the "many, many, many other buildings" you cite, which ones use fiber-cement siding on any part of the building, much less all four sides?  And of those, which ones have a rear setback that's 20 feet fewer than required by zoning?  It's fact, not my opinion, that the siding that will be used for the new building is cheap relative to the all-brick construction approved in 2007.  Frankly, I don't know how it will look until it's built.  I hope it will look good.  But if you're sure that siding will look as good as brick, I think you've been bamboozled by artists' renderings not reality.

  3. Glad somethings going up

    I am glad something that looks decent is going up and will hopefully reinvigorate this area which I live near. Right now the area looks vacant and frankly sad. I hope the current commercial tenants get more business and more businesses come into the area. As far as traffic goes…traffic on Central any weekend or evening west of Green Bay is crappy as is parking even w/the lot on the northside of the street.

    I must agree though it seems a little shadey that the project which really is new did not have to go back to the Planning Commission…

  4. I like how people hate on NU

    I like how people hate on NU students.  You clowns would be about as exciting as Skokie without Northwestern. 

    1. Re; Hate NU

      We would have their tax base too, and would not be broke either!!! I'll take boring versus high taxes and a broke city.

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