Developers unveiled plans for what would be Evanston’s tallest building Monday night at a community meeting at the downtown public library.

Vermilion Development showed revised plans for 601 Davis St. as a 33-story rental residential buiilding to be build on the Chase Bank drive thru and a vacant lot just to the east.

The same developers in December 2015 had proposed a 27-story tower for the site, which would have been essentially the same height as the city’s current tallest building, the Chase Bank tower at 1603 Orrington Ave. But that plan had stalled in the intervening months.

Dave Cocagne.

Dave Cocagne, president of Vermilion Development, said the development, which is planned to have 6,700 square feet of retail space onthe ground floor, would create 27 to 31 new permanent new jobs as well as about 770 construction jobs and was conservatively estimated to produce $750,000 in additional annual real estate tax revenue for local taxing bodies.

The proposed building would have 318 residential units with about 40 percent of them having two or three bedrooms.

The plans also call for preserving and upgrading the century-old two-story University Building at the corner of Davis Street and Chicago Avenue.

A rendering of the development site, with the existing University Building at right.

The developers said they plan to offer 179 parking spaces on site and are discussing leasing additional space in the city’s Church Street garage.

Hank Goldman, president of the condo association at Sherman Plaza, 807 Davis St., now the city’s second-tallest building, said the new project “would wreak havoc with traffic” in the nieghborhood and predicted it would create “horrendous wind problems” as the new tower interacted with other tall buildings in the area.

“It will make wind tunnels all through Evanston,” Goldman claimed.

But Alderman Don Wilson, whose 4th Ward includes the site, said he liked the idea of being able to preserve the University Building as part of the project.

Wilson said he’s prefer to have an office development on the site, but “everybody wants to put in housing and we’re having a hard time getting people to bite on the office concept.”

“Evanston is a great place to live,” Wilson said, “so people want to build more housing here.”

Wilson said that because of planned changes to Fountain Square and the planend addition of bike lanes on Chicago Avenue the traffic issues regarding the development will have to be looked at closely.

Jeanne Lindwall, who lives nearly a mile from the site, at 625 Library Place, said the proposed building is “just too big” and “out of scale with the surrounding area.”

But a younger resident, who said he was in the third grade, said he liked the new building because it would provide tax money for the schools.

Despite having been initially proposed nearly 16 months ago, the 601 Davis project has not yet been scheduled for the formal city reviews that would be needed for it to win approval.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Another tall building

    Oh goody….more wind tunnels in downtown Evanston.  I can’t imagine how bad the wind will become with this second tall building. 

    1. Davis tower

      I agree with all the caveats.  Wind tunnel for sure, out of scale and inappropriate for our city.  Tax relief?  So far our taxes just keep escalating, regardless of the number of high rises that keep going up.

    2. Exciting!

      The second rendering here is even better than the first. I think this is a beautiful proposal, and adds desnsity in a part of town where density makes sense – our central business district. The new tax revenue is needed for the schools, and the boost for downtown businesses will bolster retail. As for the concerns about traffic, I’d be willing to bet that a large portion of these residents will be commuting to work in Chicago by train.  

      Having a hard time understanding this “wind tunnel” argument. Are people blowing away while walking downtown? Is this a real issue? Sure it gets windy downtown on windy days, but in my humble opinion that doesn’t seem like a legitimate reason to turn away hundreds of thousands of dollars of tax revenue… 

    3. Wind tunnels

      Try Main/Chicago if you want to know a consistent wind tunnel. Even on a calm day, the corner is windy. Today of course is dangerous….

    4. “Out of the mouths of babes.”

      A third-grader supports the building because it will provide tax dollars for education and programs.

      I only hope that young man runs for Mayor as soon as he is 21 years old!     (-:

    5. Gripes regarding wind and

      Gripes regarding wind and architectural exceptionalism ring very hollow to me these days. Evanston has received recent kudos on its effective use of transit-friendly high-density housing. This is the future and I support this completely though I fully expect that our town will nitpick the hell out of any plan but hopefully this one will actually get legs in spite of a vocal minority who are arguably stuck in the past.

  2. The design is so so

    Of course Hank Goldman opposes this building. It would likely block some of the east views of residents at 807 Davis. But that’s the chance you take when you buy. It’s too bad this is not a condo project. There seems to be an awful lot of new rentals buildings sprouting up around Evanston. I wish this design had more architectural significance. It would be great for Evanston to have an iconic highrise with memorable architecture.

    1. ha, i was thinking the same

      ha, i was thinking the same thing when i read his “concerns” … and sure enough, that appears to be the most logical reason why he would complain. given the podium the tower appears to be sitting on, the other complaints about wind tunnel effect will mostly be mitigated.

  3. How to solve the problem

    “Evanston is a great place to live,” Wilson said, “so people want to build more housing here.”

    So, the developers should be given free rein to build more dense, create more congestion and make Evanston a place people don’t want to move to anymore.

    “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.” -attributed to Yogi Berra

    1. Property bubble

      I wish Evanston would be a “property bubble” like Manhattan or Toronto – so I could sell my old house for a teardown and move out.

    2. You are misusing Mr. Berra’s quote

      You are misusing Mr. Berra’s famous quote. It’s meant to show the absurdity of those who complain about places being too busy. Being busy of course means people want to be there. YOU may not want to live here, but Vermilion is betting they can find 500 new people who do. 

  4. Looks great!

    It’s unfortunate that people continue to drum up the unfounded arguments of traffic and congestion when opposing development. Has anyone actually observed the traffic coming in and out of large residential buildings?  It’s inconsequential, largely because people choose to live in these buildings so they don’t need to drive many places. 

    These buildings provide much-needed tax revenue, and they provide our downtown with the one thing it needs most to support interesting shops and restaurants: people who can, and will, walk to those businesses – especially on weekdays, when most of the “traffic and congestion” crowd is holed up in their single-family homes shopping on the internet while our businesses struggle to hang on.  

    Never has a city died because too many people wanted to move there.  Keep the development coming.


  5. Yes Please

    As a resident of Evanston, I fully support this development. The benefits far outweigh the negatives, and I would support for alderman and mayor those that would support a development like this. While I agree that the City needs to be careful in granting approval to be sure that we get the most from the developer that is reasonable, the simple fact that the development is tall and dense has no bearing on whether I would not support this development. The height and density is in a location of downtown Evanston that can support tall and dense buildings. The wind tunnel effect? Until a wind study is conducted that could substantial such a claim, then I would just blow that off as a condo president blowing hot air about a tall building nearby. Even if substantial wind would be created… that’s what tall buildings occasionally do, and if you live in downtown area then that’s part of life. No reason to hold the city back. I would imagine that opponents of the Sherman Plaza building alleged similar claims when that building was proposed. In sum, I encourage the City to carefully analyze the development to ensure that it does not create undue substantially negative effects for the nearby community, push the developer to make as many improvements to the design as reasonable, and not to be afraid of the density or height. I support this development.

  6. How wonderful to have lots

    How wonderful to have lots more empty retail space downtown.  According to the young person, maybe we don’t need to consider a school tax increase after all.

  7. Tax Revenue vs. Costs Of Services to New Residents

    I agree with Barbara that my real estate taxes have gone up every single year of the downtown building boom. Why is that? The developers for this project are promising at least “$750,000 in additional annual real estate tax revenue for local taxing bodies.” And what do they say about the additional costs to taxpayers? If “the proposed building would have 318 residential units with about 40 percent of them having two or three bedrooms,” and the developers have estimated that 179 on-site parking spaces is a feasible number, then they must also be able to estimate how many school-age children in need of public education will also be added to the tax burden. And what about the additional burden on police and fire services, and everything else that the city provides free of charge to rental residents? I’m sure the city has an exact figure for the annual cost of educating one child. The city is already dealing with the inability to provide for that amount for its existing residents. And then there is the tax revenue that is already provided by the owners of the existing properties. I know the developers are quoted as saying the $750K would be in addition to that amount, but I’d like to know whether their figures are accurate. Does the city hold developers to their estimates? Does it fact-check them at all? The developers provided a very one-sided sales pitch that is covered in this story, but I don’t see how any decision can be reached until the costs associated with the new development are presented as well. It’s absurd to be “for” or “against” something without knowing what the bottom line is. Will the new tax revenue be earmarked to pay for all of the increases in service costs associated with the property, before it is added to the general fund to pay for other services? So many questions.

    1. Vertical sprawl and its questionable tax benefits

      The tax/school referendum on the ballot is in large part due to 1500 additional children that are now in our school district. Evanston has built high rise after high rise in the last 10 years that I can only imagine have significantly contributed to more children. Being that our two school districts are among the highest re: money per capita–ETHS used to be $19,000 per pupil.) Now another 30+ story bullding to supposedly bring in tax revenue while we are having to raise taxes to pay for more students? Meanwhile, we have NU buying up 2 buildings in the last few weeks, one which generates around $300,000 in taxes per year. They verbally agree to make an equivalent payment, but 1) this has been promised before and stopped after a few years and 2) if it’s not property taxes, the schools do not get the money, so our school system is drained more. We are selling our soul and deteriorating this city for residents with these high rises that end up raising our taxes in other ways (yes, services too) or NU buys them up. How about smarter, less risky and detrimental solutions to generate tax revenues…Jeff Smith had a good idea about attracting “green” businesses to Evanston…how about attracting more businesses to the west side of Evanston — Dempster street is humming along, let’s add to it and do the same on Church, Emerson and others. We are better than this–throwing up high rises of condos and apartments is a cop out. Instead of enhancing our unique town, we are becoming a generic knock off of Chicago.

    2. Why your, my, and our taxes go up

      Carrie, you raise a very good point about why all of our taxes continue to go up in face of “a downtown building boom.” The reason that our taxes continue to rise is that the cost of providing the government services we expect/demand/require continue to rise at a faster rate than our tax base is increasing. From a different context, if Evanston didn’t expand its tax base (new buildings etc) our taxes would go up EVEN MORE than our current assessment.

      Another question to ask is why does the cost of providing government services continue to increase? The 3 primary taxing bodies for Evanston residents are D65, D202 and City of Evanston. The cost structure for all 3 entities are 70-80% + people related. The compensation is a function of both salaries and all benefits.

      Over time people will either decide to continue with the status quo and pay higher taxes, accept more development to lessen the tax burden (and this would likely mean a slower growth rate in future tax increases NOT an absolute decline), request a slowdown in future salary and benefit increases, accept lower levels of service (i.e. more kids in a classroom) or demand a restructuring of the way our services are provided.

      The latter case of restructuring current services could follow a similar path of eliminating the Evanston Township. Recall that the township government structure in Evanston duplicated many of the City of Evanston services. By eliminating the Township layer, taxpayers save money each and every year, and the necessary and appropriate services are now provided by the City of Evanston.

      D202 and D65 appear to have many duplicative operational functions but currently there has been very limited interest in exploring significant opportunities to save money for taxpayers. To their credit both districts have more recently coordinated purchasing, legal and some other services, but when 70-80% of their costs are people related, larger savings can only be realized through combining HR, Finance, Curriculum development, Data analysis, Technology and other departments.

  8. more rental units?

    Just curious. . .How many vacant rental units does Evanston have now? The massive towers at Maple and Elgin (Is that complex called E2 and E1?) seem so large. What percentage of its apartments are rented now? How many are vacant?

  9. The building seems way too

    The building seems way too big, waaay too big. I think at about one third the size it would make more sense.

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