Evanston’s Design and Project Review Committee this afternoon recommended that the City Council not approve the office building proposed for what’s now a city parking lot at 1714 Chicago Ave. downtown.

The vote against the project came amid concerns about tight clearances in the alley behind the building and a desire for the developer to spend more on public benefits to justify the requested planned development allowances for the building’s height and bulk.

Greg Stec.

But developer Greg Stec told the committee that construction costs for the project have increased 20 to 25 percent in recent months because of tariffs being imposed on steel imports and rising interest rates.

“The project is thin, there’s not much left,” Stec added, saying that it would make a difference if the city reduced the $4 million it wants the developers to pay for ownership of the lot.

A rendering of the new alley configuration looking south toward Church Street.

Architect Paul Janicki said the latest design of the building moves the rear of the structure five feet to the east to improve navigation through a jog in the alley that will provide vehicle access to the new structure.

The alley also serves the adjacent Evanston Public Libary and Northwestern University’s McManus Center and Library Director Karen Danczak Lyons said the new plan would still make it difficult for semi-trailer trucks to make deliveries to the library.

Karen Dancak Lyons.

She also claimed that the loss of the existing open parking lot would leave insufficient parking for library patrons, although the developers offered a traffic study and photographs of empty spaces in the library’s own garage to suggest that parking would be sufficient.

City Engineer Lara Biggs said there would need to be restrictions to prohibit trucks from trying to back down the length of the alley. She said she was still not satisfied that the revised alley design was wide enough and said a plan would have to be developed among the property owners facing the alley for how to handle snow removal, since the city doesn’t plow alleys.

After a lengthy discussion the developers, concerned about the cost of additional delay, asked for the committee to vote, rather than waiting two weeks to have another meeting to discuss possible further revisions to the plans.

The project now moves to the Plan Commission, which will begin its review on Wednesday, Dec. 12.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Evanston needs this office building

    Office space is very limited in downtown Evanston. Our community needs this building to provide a place where people can start and grow businesses — people need jobs. This location will utilize current public transportation; train and El and bus, thereby limiting its carbon footprint.

    The library will benefit since the tax base in Evanston will grow and the last time I checked, the Library wants more money for its budget.

    Other local businesses will benefit since more people will be working in downtown Evanston and they’ll go out to lunch or shop. 

    And the City of Evanston and our schools will benefit from the additional taxes paid each and every year.

    Make some necessary adjustments to the building plans and APPROVE this project.

    1. Completely Agree

      It will be an enormous shame if this is scuttled over seemingly non-issues.

      More workers in downtown Evanston is good for the whole city’s economy, and prime office space is absolutely at a premium. 

      I hope the city gives these developers a helping hand, guides them through the exact changes that need to be made to win approval, and then ultimately does the right thing here. A surface parking lot in the Central Business District is foolish and wasteful. 

  2. approve & build

    This project has endured repeated and unreasonable delay.  With construction cost escalating rapidly I wouldn’t be suprised if this developer just walked away, who could blame him.

    And design & project review wants to try and extract some other minor public benefit.  If he walks away the city forgoes $4million in cash plus millions more in lost r.e. taxes.  Hows that benefit the public?        

    Karen Lyons parking objections are spurious, coming from a woman who can’t draw enough library patrons to fill her own parking lot.  She’s a woman who wants to grab more taxpayer dollars to basically redecorate, yet objects to a project that would deliver millions in r.e. taxes that would help already heavily burdened taxpayers.  Sounds like a solid plan.    

    Enough with the delays, get this thing approved and built.     

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