Demand for office space in Evanston is low, so low that developers of the vacant lot at Main Street and Chicago Avenue have scrapped plans for an office building on the site.

Instead, developer John O’Donnell, told a 3rd Ward meetin Thursday night, he now is planning a three-way mix of retail, office and residential units on the southeast corner of the intersection.

Initially, Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, said tax increment financing (TIF) funds would not be used for the project. But in an interview following the meeting, she said the developer could potentially seek TIF funds for just the office part of the building.

In late January, City Council voted 7-2 to create TIF district for the Chicago-Main shopping area with a projected $25 million budget, but the plan specified that the only private projects the TIF could aid would be office developments.

TIF funds are also expected to be used for a variety of public infrastructure improvements in the neighborhood.

O’Donnell said he’s not sure whether he will seek TIF funds for the single floor of office space proposed in the new plan.

Top: The vacant lot at Chicago Avenue and Main Street that’s the proposed site of the new development. Above: A rendering of the new design for the site, looking east on Main Street.

The plan calls for a 100-foot tall, nine story building with about 158,000 square feet of floor area above ground.

Retail space, which O’Donnell says will likely be occupied by a small bank branch and fast casual dining establishment, will be located on the first floor, with office space and shared amenities on the second floor.

The building would have 112 residential units on levels three through nine and 73 underground parking spaces.

O’Donnell said the proposed project would cost about $42 million.

The dozens of residents in attendance at the meeting voiced several concerns regarding the proposal.

Some were concerned that, with the new AMLI building a block away, there would not be enough demand to fill the proposed units.

But both Wynne and O’Donnell were confident that the units be rented.

Wynne said between 2008 and 2012, there was “no residential construction whatsoever” due to the financial crash.

A Google Map view looking north on Chicago Avenue to the north side of Main Street where two large condo developments were built before the housing market collapse. View Larger Map

“We have a plan commission that has not been busy at all for four years, and now we want them to get busy again,” she said.

Other residents were concerned that 73 parking spots would not adequately serve a building with 112 units.

O’Donnell said the project would be targeted to young families and professionals, a demographic that, increasingly, is relying less on cars and more on public transit. He also noted the site’s close proximity to both the Metra and CTA lines.

Wynne said the final number of parking spaces would be debated during the building application process.

Other concerns focused on congestion and visibility issues in the alley behind the site. Wynne said the city’s traffic department would examine that.

Both Wynne and O’Donnell emphasized that the project is in the very early stages, and many things are subject to change, especially when resident feedback is taken into account. “We’ve only been at this for 60 days,” O’Donnell said.

Residents in attendance were asked to fill out forms with their comments and concerns about the project.
“My goal tonight was to hear from all of you and have [the developers] hear from all of you,” Wynne said.

O’Donnell said that if the project wins city approval, construction could begin early next year, with completion in spring 2015.

Join the Conversation


  1. Make sure there is plenty of bike parking!

    The City would be wise to include a lot more bike parking in the area, combined with safer bike infrastructure, so that people living in this area become less dependent on their cars. Even better, a bike share station here! The street parking fees should reflect the market demand for them and not be kept artificially low.

    1. Bike parking

      Bike parking and share station should be directly across the street in the empty and unused public or transit owned space next to the magazine store thats also next to the entrance to the train station.    

      1. Bike parking

        There currently is Bike parking available on the North and South sides of the Main El Station.

        1. South side spaces — always full

          At the south side of the Main Street Metra station from Monday through Friday 7:30 a.m. to about 6 p.m., the little bike rack is always full and bikes are locked to most of the nearby parking meters and street signs.  

          In my opinion, more bike parking is already needed there. 

  2. Wow how things changed

    Wasnt there a media event with Senator Durbin and some other folks a short while back touting this site as a high tech fiber optic research and development business incubator or some such thing? Now its gonna be a huge ugly hulking apartment building   Please give me back the beautiful low rise retail building we used to have! This is an eyesore!

  3. New building does not fit with the neighborhood

    I think this rendering is a modern eyesore that does not fit in this used to be beautiful historic neiborhood

    1. I agree

      I think this building is plain ugly. The project should fit with the historic apartments here. 

  4. Safety from bikes for pedestrians

    Before Evanston caters any further to bike riders, it would be good for Evanston's bike owners and riders to learn the law — and also to learn just a touch of common courtesy.  Bike riders do not belong on the sidewalk; Evanston provides bike lanes, among other things, to protect pedestrians from being yelled at/cursed/slammed into/knocked down by bikers, and bikers need to use them, as well as to wear helmets, carry and use lights and reflectors, observe stop signs and lights, and signal their intentions when making turns.   Once Evanston's bikers bother to learn and observe the law, then it will be time to make room to accommodate more of them. Just sayin'.

    1. In that case…

      "observe stop signs and lights, and signal their intentions when making turns"

      In that case the city should focus on cars first. As someone who walks to and from public transportation and stores daily, I find that to be a bigger problem than people on bikes. And add drivers texting and on their phones.

    2. So tired of this complaint

      There are no bike lanes in the Chicago/Main area. Riding in the street most places in Evanston is doable but harrowing- you are stuck between fast traffic and opening car doors. As a cyclist, what I want most of all are more cyclists (and fewer cars). As a pedestrian, I want fewer cars, going more slowly; is this not far more desirable for the pedestrian than fewer cyclists? Design a street for cyclists, and they will come and (mostly) behave. Design it for cars, then the cyclists will necessarily have to exist on the outskirts of the law, and they will mostly be young, risk-taking males. Don't be surprised if they act accordingly. You want safe, law-abiding, upstanding citizens biking through the streets? Demand safe, family-friendly bike infrastructure now!

      1. Tired street design

        While I would agree with most of what you are saying, the cost implications of upgrading and redesinging streets is enormous. Roads are constructed for motorized vehicles, not pedal/human powered transits. That's just reality. Perhaps slowly integrating new concepts in road usage is the way to go…one street at a time.

        If you'd care to discuss the topic further I'd be more than happy to meet you for a thoughtful conversation whilst biking the roads of our great city.  =)

      2. Tired of complaint?

        Too bad!!  When the cyclists start obeying traffic laws, perhaps the complaints will stop.  And, the number of cyclists riding on the sidewalks is steadily increasing.

        The car traffic is getting worse.  Cars are blowing stop signs, they've probably seen cyclists blowing them and, ergo, feel they can.  I've seen motorcyclists blow stop signs, too.

        Cyclists are scofflaws and once that's realized and their feet are held to the fire by fines, disobeying traffic laws will continue.

        I would like to see a law enacted where every bicycle in Evanston, bought has to have a license plate. This can be enforced by applying for the license when purchasing a bike, like we do when we purchase a car. And the license renewed the exact same what cars are.  

        I feel, too, that cyclists should carry extra insurance, especially for the people they hit.

        BTW, those of you who ride on the sidewalks while carrying a child in a special seat, and use that as an excuse for riding on the sidewalk … that is child abuse.  If you are not confident in your cycling to ride on the street with your child in tow, then you really shouldn't be taking that child for a ride that could possibly wind up hitting a pedestrian, cycle falling and child injured.

        Also, I've seen so many cyclists who pull those trailers in back with children in them blow stop signs with no worry of a car hitting that trailer. Again, I call this child abuse

        Some say 'more bikes, less cars.'  That's a fallacy as far as I can see.  It seems that the cyclists are riding on the sidewalks to avoid getting hit by cars.

  5. Chicago-Main Development

    This is one of the most unappealing architectural designs I have yet to see on Chicago Ave. Is there no consideration of the surrounding area and existing buildings? This is a complete disappointment.

  6. Oh great, a fast food

    Oh great, a fast food restaurant. Can't wait for my neighborhood to get this exciting new addition, I really hope they'll use my taxes to feed me some McDonalds at the corner.

  7. Something for this kids?

    Why not use the space for something like an indoor skatepark or roller rink or something for Evanston's (and the surrounding communities) to enjoy?

  8. Bait and switch

    Every single highrise residential project built in Evanston comes with assurances that it won't impact traffic. And with the nonsense assurance that renters or condo owners who can afford luxury units don't own cars, don't drive cars, and don't have kids. But year after year traffic gets more congested. And then we are told we need new schools.

    This building won't help the tax base especially ifit has any TIF components. The services used by the residents will eat up the taxes contributed. And it's a switch from the premise on which Evanston got the gigabit grant to bring fiber optic to this intersection.

  9. The design is just plain

    The design is just plain brutal with looming overhangs and sharp angles everywhere.

  10. Eyesore

    That is one of the ugliest buildings I have ever seen. I not only wouldn't want to live in it, I would probably not travel in that area, as to avoid seeing it.

  11. Why Not a Park?

    We already have way too many new housing and retail buildings being built in and around Evanston. Why not build a cool and useful park? Day by day I see people playing with their kids and their dogs, and also having picnics! Why not transform it into something beautiful? 

    Starbucks and the magazine store are right across the street, people could drink their coffee and read in the park!

  12. Parking!

    Parking is very tight for residents in this area.  The building is hideous, we probably don't need so many new units in the area since Amli was just built, but if they are going to get approval at least make them include enough parking spots for all–say 1 1/2 times the number of units–so that current residents don't lose their parking. 

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