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City to pay part of ramp cost

Evanston Aldermen Monday indicated they will approve a proposal that the city pay $1.25 million toward the cost of relocating the parking garage ramp at the Chase Bank tower.

The aldermen voted 7-1 to give preliminary approval to plans to give the owners of the tower at 1603 Orrington Ave. until Sept. 1, 2010, to complete a project that would add new retail space to the plaza around the building.

The project would also relocate the parking garage ramps, which now occupy most of the street frontage on the east side of the Orrington block.

Instead of running parallel to the street, the new ramps would be perpendicular to the street, dramatically reducing the on-street space they occupy and adding about 16 new curb-side parking spaces.

The Chase tower was built in the late 1960s and critics say that ever since the open raised plaza and long ramps have created a "dead zone" for pedestrians that has made it difficult for retail businesses to succeed on either side of the block.

A final vote on the design and financing plans is expected at the City Council’s next meeting on Tuesday, May 27.

Under the plan negotiated by city staff the city would repay the developers for about 40 percent of the cost of relocating the ramps. An initial payment of $625,000 upon completion of the ramp would come from tax increment financing funds. The rest of the money would be paid through rebates of added sales tax revenue generated by the new retail space over the following nine years.

The developers have said the ramp relocation project can’t be justified economically without the city assistance.

The project would add 13,610 square feet of new ground floor commercial space to the site.

Alderman Edmund Moran, 6th Ward, cast the only vote against the plan, saying he doesn’t like the design for the project.

Update 5/28/08: The City Council gave final approval to the project on a 7-2 vote on Tuesday, May 27. Aldermen Hansen and Moran voted no.

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