The long-delayed plan to redevelop the former Evanston Theatre site on Central Street is moving again. A city staff panel Wednesday approved revisions to the project that will switch it from a condo to a rental development.

The long-delayed plan to redevelop the former Evanston Theatre site on Central Street is moving again. A city staff panel Wednesday approved revisions to the project that will switch it from a condo to a rental development.

The revisions to the planned development ordinance for the site still require approval of the city’s Planning and Development Committee and the full City Council.

The unanimous vote by the city’s Site Plan and Appearance Review Committee on the project known as The Eastwood came after a presentation by developer Bob Horne of Dodge Capital LLC and architect Mike Breclaw of OKW Architects.

They detailed their plans to switch from 51 condo units to 78 apartment units, while staying within essentially the same footprint as for the original four-story project approved by the city in 2007.

Top: A rendering of the revised design. Above: Horne discusses the challenges of the project.

Horne said that he “put his heart and soul into trying to get the building launched.” But it was right at the time ‘the condo market cratered in 2008.”

“So thankfully we didn’t actually start building” unlike other developers who ended up with unsalable projects, Horne said. “And we’ve been sitting on vacant land, which we’d like to activate now” with the rental project.

Architect Mike Breclaw.

Breclaw said the new plans call for 81 parking spaces on the ground floor level, 56 in large garage that would be entered off Eastwood Avenue, and 25 more in individual garages that would be entered from the alley.

He said the building would be set back five feet from the alley, which itself is just 14 feet wide, to make it easier for cars to turn into the garages. In addition the development will also place utility lines in the alley underground, eliminating poles that now obstruct traffic.

The developers are requesting that the city make Eastwood, which is one-way northbound now, two-way from Central Street to the alley, so that residents won’t have to enter the alley from Poplar Avenue at the other end of the block.

Horne said the ground floor will also include about 10,600 square feet of retail space — most likely including a “white-tablecloth Italian restaurant.” He said the old plan had very shallow retail spaces with depth of 30 to 35 feet.

The rental development, because it calls for fewer parking spaces than the condo plan, will have retail space depths of 50 to 52 feet, Horne added.

The ground floor will also include amenity spaces for tenants including a fitness room and internet cafe area.

Kevin O’Connor, of 1227-1/2 Isabella St., complained that the project — with 19 fewer spaces than the condo version — wouldn’t provide enough parking.  And O’Connor attacked Horne as “an out of town developer (from Winnetka) who comes in to make money, leaves and we’re left with the problems.”

Kevin O’Connor reads his statement opposing the project.

But Dennis Marino, who heads the planning unit within the city’s Community and Economic Development Department, said studies by the Urban Land Institute indicate that condos always have more cars than rentals.

He said the city requested the developer to provide a parking and traffic study, which indicated that there is plenty of off street parking in the area in the evening, when the planned restaurant would be likely to do most of its business.

The second floor of the building would include a green roof over a portion of the garage.

Horne said hes also working on agreement with the owner of an office building across the street to permit evening parking for the restaurant in his 32-space lot.

Marino said the plan now is scheduled to go before the Planning and Development Committee on Sept. 26.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Looks like a nice development, but too much parking

    This will  be a welcome addition to Central St.  It is too bad that the city requires so much parking for the development since it is essentially wasted space that could otherwise be used for some use that could generate more tax revenue.

    Also, there should be a bike corral on Central Street somewhere in front of the retail stores.

    The indoor bike parking will be fine for the residents of the building, but visitors to the retail will be better served by a bike corral.

    1. Bikes at The Eastwood

      Actually, bike parking on the sidewalk was one of the things city staff suggested the developer add to the project, and the developer said he'd do that.

      The developer is also planning to include bike parking inside the garage area for the building's residents.

      — Bill

  2. Transit Orientated Development

    Apparently, Mr. O'Connor hasn't been paying attention to what is happening in progressive cities and towns around the world.

    Hasn't Mr. O'Connor ever heard of locating new development near public transportation lines and then – and this is the important part – LIMITING the number of parking spaces available so you actually encourage use (and consequently support of) public transportation.

    Where has he been?  Also, this plan could hardly be viewed as a strict limitation of available parking.  The main point is that this site is easy walking distance to 2 different major rail systems as well as numerous bus lines.  This is an excellent, tax producing use of this property, which will help to support local businesses on Central Street and elsewhere in Evanston. 

    Additionally, kudos to the architect for a nice looking design at a very nice scale for the neighborhood!  Love the number of trees planned for Central Street, which could use a little "greening".   And, a sidewalk cafe on Eastwood would complete the (very nice) picture.  I hope the City works hard not to bog this development down in City red tape, and get this project going.

  3. Development

    Has any one thought of the traffic by St. A's parents twice a day.  They are funneled down Eastwood to the alley and totally block Eastwood.  It is difficult twice a day to get around the neighborhood.  The town homes are also funneled down Eastwood to turn down the alley and then one way into their driveway. 

    There will be entirely too much traffic in a two block area. Eastwood and Ashland are short on parking for the residents since they are one way streets with one side parking.

    I do not think this is a good idea.

  4. New Central Street Development

    I do not think anyone is aware that approximately 310 students attend St. A's.  The majority are dropped off in the morning by accessing Eastwood going north from Lincoln and turning into the alley across from the new proposed development.  Likewise, these students get picked up in the afternoon and there is a line of cars waiting on Lincoln to turn north onto Eastwood in the am and also in the pm.

    Also, what about the proposed dorm for National Louis which is in the same block and cars will also need to access from Eastwood or Ashland.  This indeed is a major problem.

    We also have football and basketball games at Northwestern University. How much can one neighborhood take for traffic.

    1. Traffic from St. A’s

      At least in the morning there is an almost constant line of cars going north on Asbury from Lincoln.  Probably some are for ENH but a lot of the drivers look like mothers in vans who dropped their kids off at St. A.'s.


  5. Traffic, again?

    Happy to see something finally built on one of our major arterial roadways, a very positive development that is long overdue, kudos to the developer for stepping up and making something nice happen there.

    These new buildings have never brought the traffic armageddon that these critics are always predicting will occur and it gets tiring having to constantly listen to their falling sky predictions.

    Also, if there are issues with parking and pick up from Saint A's, then that's a Saint A's problem.  The answer isn't to prohibit a positive development that isn't going to cause a traffic issue but go to the source that  is already causing a traffic issue. 

    That means these critics need to go to Saint A's and work with them to come up with a better plan.  Obviously, by the critics very own comments, St. A's is causing the traffic problem, not this proposed development.

    1. St. As brings in Zero revenue, this development will

      On top of that, lets remember that these churches like St. As that have schools associated with them don't pay property taxes and are a drain on the city–unlike, say, Northwestern that draws significant numbers of people to town.

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