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Design group backs tower plan

The plan for a 49-story tower on the Fountain Square block drew cheers from local design professionals but jeers from some other residents at Wednesday’s Evanston Plan Commission hearing.

Architect Stephen Yas, who lives on the edge of downtown at 1889 Maple Ave., said that he and other members of the non-profit group Design Evanston have reviewed the plans with the developers and believe the project will be a "profoundly welcome landmark for our downtown urban core" and that the design "is likely to be recognized far beyond our city’s borders."

But Paul Barker of 815 Oakton St., an artist, said that while the building is beautiful, it would only be appropriate in Chicago, "not in my back yard."

He said here building would be "a monster" and that population limits should be set for downtown and all of Evanston.

Mr. Yas suggested that the new tower, combined with a revitalized Fountain Square plaza, would provide for Evanston a modern equivalent to the Piazza San Marco, the centeral landmark and gathering place in Venice.

He said the building, with 218 condo units, two floors of retail space and three levels of parking would be "less dense than the Park Evanston and Sherman Plaza" developments downtown.

He said the design was "superb architecture" and praised the 37.5 foot setback of the tower from the property line on its three bordering streets.

But Mr. Yas said the design group would like to see further articulation in the design for the parking levels, something the project architect, George Halik, said he was working on. And Mr. Yas urged the developers to seek a higher level of environmental, or LEED, certification than they have so far committed to.

Patrick Coffey of 807 Church St., president of the Evanston Galleria’s condo association said at least 10 of the 54 unit owners in his building have said they’ll put their units up for sale if the new project is approved.

"We lived through Sherman Plaza going up," Mr. Coffey said. "We dealt with construction noise, pounding, dirt and mess, even overspray on our cars on our parking deck. And now we’re dealing with the noise of air conditioners from that building."

"Many people have come up to me and are saying we won’t go through another three years of construction, and it would be just devastating for our building to put that many units on the market all at once"

Gerald Gordon of 1228 Lake St. said "I’m basically for this project," but he asked whether the developers were asking for any financial assistance from the city.

The developer’s attorney, Steve Friedland, said the developers are not asking any financial assistance from the city and said that incremental tax revenue from the project, which has to be spent on projects that benefit the tax increment financing district in which the project is located, could be used by the city to restore Fountain Square.

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