Long-dormant plans for a 35-story residential tower on the Fountain Square block in downtown Evanston aren’t dead yet.

The Evanston Review reports that members of the tower’s development team have told city officials they will soon seek a three-year extension of the planned development approval the project received in 2009.

Talk of a tower on the Fountain Square block goes back at least to a 2006 proposal from developer Thomas Roszak for a 38-story tower at the south end of the block.

That concept fell apart when Roszak couldn’t get control over the site.

A second plan from developer Bob Horner and his associates for a 37-story building at the south end of the block also went nowhere.

But a third plan, for the north end of the block, advanced by a team including James Klutznick and Focus Development — first discussed by aldermen in early 2007 — was eventually approved in March 2009 — after developers cut what had first been proposed as a 49-story building to 38 and then 35 stories high.

With the housing market in sharp decline by that point, the developers persuaded aldermen to give them until the end of this year to begin construction.

The request for the extra time extension will require action by the Planning and Development Committee and the full City Council.

In a sign of the recent recovery of the housing market, Focus Development, which took over the hole in the ground left by Roszak’s failed Sienna condo development, last month sold the eight-story rental apartment building it built on the 1717 Ridge Ave. site for $70 million — believed to be the highest price-per-unit ever paid for a suburban Chicago rental development.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Fantastic!

    Outstanding, my kids will be off to college by the time this gets built and this would be the perfect place for empty nest, no yard, no car, downtown city living.  Very exciting,

  2. No to the Tower!

    The primary reason I voted for our current alderperson is that they were not supportive of the tower and now that the election is over, there are talks of the tower coming back. I do hope she remembers the discussion she had with several of us.

    1. Just because a few people

      Just because a few people like you don't want it doesn't mean there aren't other people the alderman represents who are in favor of it. I think it would be a great addition to downtown. Sometimes it seems alot of citizens who comment on this site seem to forget that Evanston is more small city then suburb.

      1. Other buildings

        There are other buildings (winthrop club) with vacancies in the general area. Plus, we have several new buildings going up that are rentals. A fair discussion point would be to look at total number of available units, rate at which these are getting occupied over the past several months, and ask whether we have or will have too much supply for the potential number of people moving to Evanston. 

        Also, if people are empty nesters looking for places, why haven't they considered the current availabilities in Evanston? Besides newness, what are they expecting will be different with what is either coming to market or has been on the market?

    2. Let it be!

      The Tower would be a sign that the Depression is over!  

      That decrepit low-rise in the center of downtown is an eyesore.  At the very least, they should tear it down.

    3. Who was the alderperson in

      Who was the alderperson in question. It would be interesting to ask about it now.

  3. I hope the people that are so

    I hope the people that are so delighted about empty nesting in this highrise are prepared for the wind gusts that will be generated by such a tall building, not to mention the extra traffic which neither Ridge or Chicago Ave. can handle even now. Once again those making these decisions need to consider the unintended consequences of such a project. 

    1. Trust me, the advantages

      Trust me, the advantages of your "dreaded" building will far outnumber the disadvantages. Evanston in still being run by people who don't want change and want to keep downtown the exact same way it was. I'm sorry, but that's not at all going to happen. You'll have to accept something new for once.

  4. Time to do something with that block

    That block in Evanston is old, run down, and a drag on downtown.  Time to do something, and if somebody wants to invest tens of millions there, I'd give it some very serious consideration.

  5. If they get an extension

    If they get an extension there must be target date that must be met. There must be monetary penalties that that the city council cannot wave.

    During the last round, tenants could only get monthly leases with a 30 day notice to vacate. This caused many businesses with special needs, such as dentists and doctors offices, to spend tens of thousands of dollars to find office space that would be able to meet their requirements.

    This time around, there must be more compensation for tenants and taxpayers.

    1. Monetary penalties for what?

      There needs to be no compensation to anyone, there is no reason whatsoever for such thinking.  If the tenants don't like it, to bad, move, welcome to the world of business.  The city expends nothing, the building still pays r.e. taxes so the taxpayer is out nothing, there is no justification in calling for some type of extortion if the building isn't completed.

      If tenants sign leases with 30 day notices to move then that was accepted knowingly or with complete stupidity and either way they have no excuse if they receive that 30 day notice.

      At any rate, even with such lease clauses, the building is basically at full occupancy and the contractural clauses are absolutely of no legitimate concern to the general citizenry.

      1. Four years ago, it looked

        Four years ago, it looked like the sale was a sure thing. The building owner stopped renewing leases and anounced that all rentals would be on a month to month basis. Many shops on the first floor were empty within a couple of months. The second floor was nearly a ghost town. The tax basis of the building dropped dramatically. This cost taxpayers to pay higher property taxes (somebody had to make up the difference) and it cost tenants that moved to save their bussiness a lot of money.

        I agree with you that most of the first floor shops are occupied again but the second floor offices are only about 50 percent filled.

        Also, it is not uncommend to attach penalties to special deals like long term extentions. That's just every day bussiness.

        1. Four years ago, recession

          The tax basis of virtually every single building in the downtown has dropped during the last 4 years.  Not because of temporary vacancies, not because a specific proposal didn't get built at that time, but because the recession dropped commercial values everywhere for everyone.  

          There have been articles on this site about the widespread lower eav's in downtown commercial and the resulting lower r.e. tax income.  At no time has anyone thought there was a connection between this proposal and widespread lower eav, correctly so.  

          Penalties are attached to contracts when one incurs risk if the other party defaults.  When only 1 party incurs risk and the other doesn't, the party that incurs zero risk doesn't ask for penalty clauses.  The city is incurring no cost with this proposal and incurring zero risk, asking for a penalty is nothing more than extortion by the state and a disincentive for the developer. (obviously disincentive is something opponents want implemented)  

          The city should be encouraging this development in every way, not setting up disincentives, the increased value and r.e. tax stream will be massive and bring tax relief to every single citizen in the community, not to mention creating a wonderful and vibrant building downtown.     

          1. Risk

            The risk is on boyh sides. The developer should not have an advantage by locking out other prospective developers. By not having the developer incur some sort of penalty, the advantage is all on his side. He can drag the project out another 3 years before he has to make a decision. This will the developer 6 years in total. Only a fool would give him the extra 3 years to start the project.

            Maybe there is another developer that is willing to consider building an acceptable building.

            Enough said..

          2. Acceptable building?

            You still make no case that risk is taken by the city on any level.  The current owner of the property has all the risk of the matter in which you speak, not the city.

            And I am sure the current owner has provisions which protect his risk and quite probably  has clauses which would force the original developers hand if another actual offer came in.

            The City has no risk and you cannot make a case that it does and therefore your demands are unreasonable.  But your statement of building an "acceptable" building does give clarity to your real intent.  Creating unjustified obstacles to a development you have decided you personally don't like.

            Now, enough said.

          3. OK, the current owner of the

            OK, the current owner of the property would be an idiot if they extended another 3 years. Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me.

            Now, enough said for good.

  6. Needed ?

    What is the vacancy rate of existing 'high rises' in Evanston ? 

    I suspect it is much higher than is implied by all the new buildings or planned buildiings.

    The development where the old Wiebolts parking lot was has been going on forever.  My understanding was the Winthrop Club did not just change names but went bankrupt.

    Before Sherman Plaza went up, Orrington was a terrible wind-tunnel.  Now Sherman is also.  This proposed high rise would make it even worse!

  7. Sky is falling, again!

    Ahh here it comes again, trotting out those same old "concerns".  Oh it will be windy, oh the traffic, oh it's to tall, oh it's to modern, oh doesn't fit into "our character", oh what about my views, oh don't I have air rights over all of Evanston?, oh the firetruck ladder only goes up 12 floors,  oh-oh-oh the sky is gonna fall, once again.

  8. If you build it, they better come.

    I'm all for luring additional taxpayers.  I just wish downtown Evanston wasn't so architecturally incongruous. 

  9. “Make no little plans”

    When did we in Evanston become too meek to live out the creed of Daniel Burnham, and lose our appetite for progress? If we want this great town to thrive into future generations, we cannot fear development, new projects, and forward motion. Projects like these should be carefully examined, thoroughly questioned, and given a fair shake by all. The knee-jerk "No!" reaction to any development proposal will be the death of this town if we allow it to continue. Remember what Burnham said a century ago: "Make no little plans, they have no magic to stir men's blood." Onward and (literally) upwards Evanston!

    1. “Knee jerk reactions…Really?

      I don't think it is fair to say that people are giving knee jerk reactions to these projects when they voice legitimate concerns. There is a lot of construction going on all over the city right now and it is harder to get around when these projects are going on.  When people can't find parking and can't get to the businesses, restaurants and doctor's offices they patronize it is a problem for those businesses. We need to think critically about unintended consequences of every project, especially the cost of improving the infrastructure to support the growth that these projects bring. Although Evanston is technically a city,it is still a city/suburb with resources such as beaches, playgrounds greenspace, a variety of restaurants, Northwestern, quality public schools,  art venues and cultural activities and stores that people want to able to access. Not everyone can walk or ride a bike. We need to have safe routes for children to get to school and for our elderly to be able to access the resources they need. All changes have positive and negative effects.  I've been coming to Evanston ever since it was a dry town in 1972(?) and moved here shortly after it became "wet".  This  change is one that has had positive effects (the growth of restaurants) and some negative consequences as well due to the greater accessibility of alcohol.  Overall it is exciting to see how vital the downtown area has become since the early sleepier days of this community, but I think there is a limit to the positive effects of a growth in density.  Those who like a high density area can always find it a few miles to the south.  

      1. Concerns can be addressed

        Then let's give a quick analysis of your concerns.

        1. Current construction, it will be ending in 2-3 weeks, so absolutely no concern of overlap there whatsoever.

        2. The current construction is improving the infrastructure so this building will have no effect upon that infrastructure.

        3. No effect or removal of or to the beaches, playgrounds or greenspaces of Evanston. Only an existing decrepit building is coming down. But there will be more tax revenue available to maintain all of those assets, so that's a real positive for the beaches and parks.

        4. Actually is a huge assistance to restaurants, stores, art venues and cultural activities by providing an expanding base of clientele. A very extreme positive here.

        5. Has no effect on bike or pedestrian pathways or access to anything or the safety or ability of children or elderly to move or access anything. No change here.

        6. Traffic studies will show little effect, which has been true of every downtown residential project despite the continual claims of calamity.

        7. Change can have positive or negative effect, true.  Claims of negative effect must be based on fact and not personal likes or dislikes of architecture.  I agree all concerns should be raised up because they can be addressed as legitimate, not legitimate or in need of implementation.

  10. Deny the extension

    And start the process over since so much time has elapased.  Hopefully, the city will get serveral proposals. And lets be very transparent.

    1. Several proposals?

      This is not a piece of city-owned land. A private developer has control of the property. How do imagine we're going to get said developer to offer "several proposals" after the city tells him to take a hike on the one that's already been approved?

      — Bill

      1. You’re right about the

        You're right about the developer control, but the council should require the developer to start the process over if they cannot fulfill their earlier agreement. they should also not let the developer tear down the non-protected parcel without a new plan in place.

  11. By the time this is built

    I hope to be living in Wilmette, back to Glenview or somewhere else. I have my personal reasons that really has no bearing on your opinion of Evanston. Toodles!

  12. City costs

    The way the city writes out checks to attract businesses will need to be studied in light of the costs assosicated with such construction. I would say say that the cost of fire personnel alone should be part of the package required of developers as well as the infrastrure needs. And later, when it is purchased by Northwestern and take off the tax roles, it will be important that the city raise taxes significantly to cover the lost supposed tax benefits of such a structure. Perhaps raising the meter rates downtown will cover the associated costs.


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