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Chicago-Main office project to get $2.9M in city aid

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Evanston aldermen Monday night approved paying a developer up to $2.9 million to include a floor of offices in a new mixed-use development at Main Street and Chicago Avenue.

The money would come from the tax increment financing district recently created for the neighborhood.

Alderman Melissa Wynne, whose 3rd Ward includes the site, said the project represents Evanston "moving forward to the future" and speculated that the office space, along with the gigabit high-speed internet service to be provided to the neighborhood through a $1 million state grant "will help create new high-tech jobs in the community."

But Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, said the office space was only being included in the project because city officials wanted it. The need for assistance, Wilson said, "was not the doing of the developer, but the doing of the city."

Alderman Coleen Burrus, 9th Ward, said she's excited at the prospect of having the new building, but that she had opposed creation of the TIF district and opposed the city's move to force the inclusion of offices in the project — which now is ending up costing the city millions of dollars.

The loan proposal was approved 6-2, with Burrus and Wilson voting no. Alderman Peter Braithwaite, 2nd Ward, was absent from the meeting.

Advocates for the project, like Wynne, have said that the area — which two mass transit stations — is a natural for more office development and that shops in the area need to recover the daytime business they lost when the two-story retail and office building that formerly occupied the site was torn down for a planned condo project that never got off the ground.

Details of the assistance for the 835 Chicago Ave. project are to be worked out in negotiations between the city manager and developer John O'Donnell and will be subject to another council vote.

The project calls for a nine story building with ground-floor retail and underground parking, offices on the second floor and seven stories of residential apartments above that.

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