The big hole on Ridge Avenue in Evanston may soon sprout a new eight-story apartment building.

Developer Tim Anderson of Northfield-based Focus Development says his firm has a contract to purchase the site in the 1700 block of Ridge from the bank that foreclosed on the property.

In an interview with Evanston Now, Anderson said he will present plans for the project to the city’s Site Plan and Appearance Review Committee at a meeting at 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 17.

He said Chicago-based architect Booth Hansen is still working on details of the drawings.

Where bankrupt develop Tom Roszak had planned to construct the final two buildings of a four-building condomininum project, Focus now is planning a single 174-unit rental apartment building with underground parking.

The planned structure would face Ridge Avenue, rather than using the elevated drive rising from Oak Avenue to a turnaround that was a centerpiece of the Roszak plan.

Top: A temporary staircase rising from the base of the Sienna parking garage toward the project’s plaza. Above: One of the two completed Sienna condo buildings that face Oak Avenue.

“But we’re not creating a wall between the buildings either,” Anderson added, saying the new structure “will be complementary in palette and everything with the existing Sienna buildings.”

Anderson says the new plan will fit within the 75-foot height limit prescribed in the original planned development approved for the Sienna project.

Evanston’s community and economic development director, Steve Griffin, said the project will require modifications of the existing planned development ordinance to accommodate the switch to two buildings from one. Those changes will be subject to City Council approval.

Griffin said members of the condo association “have a strong desire to see that the new rental building has its own entrance, separate from the condos.”

He said his assistant, Dennis Marino, who attended a neighborhood meeting this week about the project described it as “a good dialog with no substantial issues raised.”

City officials, Griffin said, are excited to work with Focus because “it was a bad situation the way the site was abandoned, with a large hole in the ground that’s been that way so long.”

Anderson said Focus has construction financing in place for the project and that he’s been working with the Sienna condominium association on the new plans and believes it meets the association’s goals.

“This hole has been a big problem on a lot of fronts, for the city and the condo association,” Anderson said. “This project will finish out the development and create a new tax-generating asset for the city.”

Focus Development has been involved in several large construction projects in Evanston, including the Church Street Station and Sherman Plaza mixed-use developments.

Anderson says that for now “nothing is happening” on another one of his projects, the planned 708 Church St. tower approved by the City Council in 2009.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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