The proposed 49-story Fountain Square skyscraper is up for debate by Evanston aldermen again Monday night.

With all the recent tower talk, it’s time to ask — do you care enough about its height to cast a vote in our new “height-o-meter” poll?

Just remember, online polls aren’t scientific, any more than person-on-the-street polls are.

And in Chicago’s “vote early and often” tradition, you should know that it is probably possible for you to vote once anonymously from each internet-connected computer you use that has a different IP address.

So you can probably vote once from home and once from the office, but you probably won’t be able to vote once from each of two computers at home if they are on the same cable modem connection.

And being registered has its privileges! Reports are that registered users, in addition to being able to vote anonymously, get a single bonus vote by logging in and then casting a ballot.

We welcome your reports of successful (and unsuccessful) ballot-box stuffing techniques.

Ready? Now’s the time to cast your first vote.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation

26 Comments

  1. Reporting the news
    Mr.Smith,
    You are supposed to be reporting the news. Instead, your biased view or the tower is overwhelmingly evident in ALL your coverage. In each and every article you have discounted the majority of Evanstonians views on the tower, that is they oppose it’s construction.
    Like it or not Evanston does not want this tower. Our aldermen can only see the pension debt and $. They do not wish to hear constituants who oppose this and seek only supporters. I’m very disillusioned by your lack of professionalism.

    A north Evanston resident
    Alderman Eb Moran is my alderman

    1. I think that this website is
      I think that this website is very informative. My understanding is that Bill put it together, Bill is paying for it (with help from advertisers, most likely), and Bill is adding a lot of news to it. We are not required to visit this site, and he is not required to be “fair and balanced”, as the NIMBY’s say.

      You say “Like it or not Evanston does not want this tower. “…well, like it or not, there are people who disagree with you here in Evanston.

      I think that Bill’s site has been a lot more open to all views than the NIMBY-sponsored evanstoncrd.org . But I guess, like typical FOX viewers and dittoheads, the NIMBY’s need to hear their opinions being repeated over and over, and anything else is evidence of “bias” by the “mainstream media”.

      There seems to be a authoritarian strain in the NIMBY’s behavior. They like to control what is built where, what kind of stores we have, what kind of people we have, what kind of articles Bill publishes. That seems to be real goal here – it isn’t about the tower.

      Sincerely,
      Mr. Who Knows
      1st ward

    2. “Like it or not Evanston does not want this tower”? What?
      How can you speak for all of Evanston? How can you possibly know what all of Evanston wants? I live in Evanston. I want the tower. Don’t speak for me.

  2. 49-story Tower
    It would be a shame if incentives to lure developers in resulted in more empty buildings. The old Borders and the old Barnes and Noble locations have been empty for some time. On the other hand, perhaps the development of a really exciting downtown is just what potential buyers of these buildings are waiting for.

  3. Who cares?
    Whether the tower gets built or whether it does not…. I will still get up in the morning and go to work, come home in the evening and play with my kids, and run to the White Hen now and then for a gallon of milk. Life won’t change.

    The marina, the primaries, Kendall college, and everything else in this town that drives people crazy, is an endless source of amusement.

    Evanstonians are nuts.

    Smell the flowers.

    1. Thank you, Michael
      The only thing in error about your comment is that life will change: White Hen is now 7-11. The ‘nuts’ comment is true, however!!

    2. The flowers are withering…
      Unfortunately, there will be no flowers to smell if that gargantuan skyscraper is built downtown. Its shadow alone will make flower growth an impossibility, unless you like artificial flowers.

      Moreover, the potential to bankrupt Evanston due to years of lost tax revenue from current businesses at 708 Church is enormous. The construction project will also substantially disrupt businesses downtown, as the construction process will take months if not years to complete. Hopefully, this will not spell bankruptcy for other small businesses elsewhere in downtown Evanston. If so, that will further empty our tax coffers.

      Watch your property taxes skyrocket if this tower is built…and then they will tell us we need yet another skyscraper to reduce taxes!

      1. another lame argument
        “Moreover, the potential to bankrupt Evanston due to years of lost tax revenue from current businesses at 708 Church is enormous.”

        If we buy this logic, then any development which involves tearing down the current Radio Shack building , 708 Church, should be prohibited. Any construction on that site will require evicting business and temporarily disrupting traffic.

        Using the income projections from ECRD shown on Bill’s graphic, it looks like income from the 708 Church is around 400K per year. Even if 708 Church produces zero tax revenue for the next 10 years, an extremely unlikely event, this would result in around 4 million in lost revenue over a 10 year period. Even this far-fetched scenario would not bankrupt the city – maybe it would force them to shut down two of the 3 libraries, or make some other cuts, but the suggestion of bankruptcy is ridiculous.

        Even this far-fetched scenario could be insured against. Certainly the city could require the developers to provide some sort of insurance, which would pay off if the new building is not completed and generating revenue in 5 years. Lawyers and accountants can take care of this – it is not a valid argument to prevent development.

      2. Let a thousand towers bloom
        “Unfortunately, there will be no flowers to smell if that gargantuan skyscraper is built downtown. Its shadow alone will make flower growth an impossibility, unless you like artificial flowers.”

        Again, not true..flowers seem to be able to grow in downtown Chicago, under the shadow the the Sears Tower, Aon Building, and Hancock. Here in Evanston, they will thrive, since the NIMBY’s are always producing hot air and fertilizer, even in the winter.

        Sincerely,
        Mr. Who Knows

    3. Life does change with development
      Depends what White Hen you are talking about. Ours, on Ewing just off Central St., became a 7-11 a couple months ago. If the “priority development opportunities” targeted by some become a reality, the 7-11will be no more, altho perhaps relocated to an undisclosed location, and at that point the nearest place to get a gallon of milk will be a mile away for many.

      This is why planning, and citizen participation in planning, is important.

      I personally don’t take pleasure or amusement in the endless debates in Evanston; I’d prefer that it took less work to be a citizen here. However, the common denominator of numerous of these debates is the seemingly endless attempt by a few to profit at the expense of the quality of life of the many. What experience has taught us, at governmental levels from the national to our school boards, is that if we just sit at home and do nothing, life does change, with insufficient consideration for the interests of the average person and average family.

      Being a community also means caring about things that don’t directly affect you. When citizens speak up only when something is happening immediately next door, they get marginalized as selfish, and perhaps rightly so. In that respect, formation of groups like the Central Street Neighbors Association (www.centralstreetnighbors.com), or the Evanston Coalition for Responsible Development (www.evanstoncrd.org), is extremely healthy, because they recognize that we all have a common stake in each others’ well-being.

      It’s easier to enjoy smelling the flowers if the jackhammers stop once in a while.

      “Strange women lying in ponds, distributing swords, is no basis for a system of government.”

      1. Save Evanston from?
        From what? Organizations like the CSNA? Is it the opinion of only Jeff Smith that all development downtown should stop and Evanston has enough residents or of the whole CSNA organization? If I’m not mistaken Evanston had more people 50 years ago! How can you have a organization that promotes responsible development when the president of that oranization dosen’t want any development. I just got a slice of pizza at gigios and walked around sherman plaza. It is so beautiful. Then I looked ove at the fountain square building. What a dump. One more thing, it was very windy today and there was a shadow in front of the shoe store!!! Imagine that, wind and shadows without a tower!

    1. Biased Poll
      Bill,

      You say: “Just remember, online polls aren’t scientific, any more than person-on-the-street polls are.” A person-on-the-street poll has the potential of being much more representative of a community’s sentiments than a poll conducted on a little known web site. On a web site you are going to get just a handful of people who have intense opinions and the side with a bigger stake in the outcome (profits) will go out of their way to affect the results. This cannot happen on a street poll. Additionally, most of us who are walking around our neighborhoods asking people to put up signs are going door-to-door randomly (down a city block), which is a much better way of gaging public opinion than what you are doing on this web site. And, one more thing, by having one response be “it ought to be even higher” you are basically opening up a category no one would have thought of and are thus helping to skew the results toward the pro-skyscraper side. So much for any concern for really gaging the sentiments of this community.

      Peter Sanchez

      PS: Why is it that we now can’t seem to respond directly to you opinion pieces?

      1. Statistics for Political Science majors
        Peter, I am truly not impressed with your research methods.

        Neither polling method mentioned is scientifically valid – they both have potential bias. Bill is absolutely right in pointing that out.

        Your arguments are really weak. First, your claim that a web poll will attract ‘people who have intense opinions’ is probably correct. But then you jump to the ridiculous conclusion that this would favor the pro-growth side; you even add the unsubstantiated charge that we are being paid by the developers. The evidence we have seen – from city council meetings – is that the people with ‘intense opinions’ are the NIMBY’s. I suspect that, as Mr. Lee has stated, the majority of residents of Evanston don’t have strong opinions on this issue. They can live with, or without, the tower. Who, other than the developers, a few downtown business owners, construction workers, and a few pro-business ideologues (such as the esteemed Anonymous Al and yours truly) , would have strong feelings in FAVOR of development? The people who show up at council meetings, and put signs in their lawn, and fill out surveys are likely to be those with strong opinions against the development. Perhaps Bill’s website only attracts pro-growth people …another source of bias …but your presence here seems to disprove that.
        You also suggested that “the side with a bigger stake in the outcome” will go out of their way to affect the results….so, who could that be? Williams Shoes? The renters of Class B offices? Sherman Plaza residents who want to preserve their views? { By the way…I still want to know who is paying for all these lawn signs}

        Second, your claim that “Additionally, most of us who are walking around our neighborhoods asking people to put up signs are going door-to-door randomly (down a city block), which is a much better way of gaging public opinion than what you are doing on this web site” is ridiculous. First, if you are asking people to put up lawn signs, you are only dealing with people who have lawns ( and backyards, of course, because they are NIMBY’s) , i.e., homeowners. You never came to my condo. Second, even if I had a front lawn (and backyard), I would be likely to not respond when I saw you at the door. I don’t like activists or solicitors knocking on my door in general, and I would certainly not open my door for your cause. The fact that people were willing to talk to you indicates that they were likely to be sympathetic to your cause.

        Third, any social scientist or pollster knows that in a survey, the questioner should make no effort to influence the results, and make it appear that one response is ‘correct’. A real pollster would make an effort to show no opinion, so as not to effect the results. That is certainly not what you were doing when you were ‘gauging opinion’. If people believe that one answer is popular, or correct, then that is how they will answer the questionnaire ( social desirability)

        With anonymity, Bill’s method has the advantage. People were free to express their real opinions, without being pressured by neighbors or community activists. Your method doesn’t have that. In fact, I notice that you guys keep insisting that the overwhelming majority of Evanston agrees with you, everyone at the garden party agrees with you, everyone at the council meeting agrees with you. Like cigarette makers, car makers, or other advertisers – you are trying to convince us that your product is best because it is popular.

        As for your last claim… ‘And, one more thing, by having one response be “it ought to be even higher” you are basically opening up a category no one would have thought of and are thus helping to skew the results toward the pro-skyscraper side.’ Well, I thought of this..why not give them a few more floors, and have them put in some office space, or have them tear down the Fountain Square building and fix Fountain Square? I would have no objection to it.

        How does it skew results toward the pro-skyscraper side? Maybe by presenting a more extreme option, it makes ‘build the tower’ look like a compromise..but Bill also put in choices like “its too tall by half” or “12 stories is plenty”, which may siphon off some pro-development votes. Your charges against Bill, like most of your shrill claims, are unfair and unsubstantiated. And if you want to see an example of leading questions, check out the ‘myths and reality’ on evanstoncrd.org.

        Sincerely,
        Mr. Who Knows

  4. I Don’t Believe These “Poll” Figures Are Genuine
    I ask myself how the results of this so-called poll can vary so dramatically from the results of the door-to-door sampling conducted by the many people who have been knocking on doors asking residents what their opinion is on the Tower.
    The results of this random sampling of households has shown that over 90% are opposed to the Tower. Whether you use your 3:1 figure or Bob’s Seidenberg’s 6:1 figure, it was clear last Monday night that the overwhelming majority of attendees were opposed to the Tower.
    These results just don’t bolster my confidence that your “poll” figures are genuine.
    In addition, the large majority of pro-Tower commentors have been anonymous. In my mind, this undermines the credibility of their comments. By contrast, most of the anti-Tower commentators have posted their names along with their comments. To my mind, this discrepancy further undermines the credibility of this webiste.

    1. Random Houses
      “I ask myself how the results of this so-called poll can vary so dramatically from the results of the door-to-door sampling conducted by the many people who have been knocking on doors asking residents what their opinion is on the Tower.
      The results of this random sampling of households has shown that over 90% are opposed to the Tower. ”

      Cindy – going around “knocking on doors”, as you did, is NOT a random sample.

      Do you know what a random sample is?

      Will the social scientists from Loyola back me up on this one? How about the architect and the engineer?

      Mr. Who Knows

      p.s. Your use of the term “so-called poll” is also intriguing. Yes, Bill’s poll maybe biased – but are you suggesting that it isn’t even a poll? I noticed that Peter also referred to the “so-called tower” in one of his postings…is that also a matter of debate, too? Are you guys arguing over whether Bill’s poll is really a poll, and whether the proposed tower is really a tower?

    2. Genuine Polls and anonymous posters
      I confess, I am one of the anonymous majority in favor of the tower. Did it ever occur to the anti tower folks that the reason the clapping was nonexistent the other night was that the brave people that showed up to say something positive may have been intimidated by the ugly hoards of anti-progress, anti-change? It takes more courage to stand against a hostile crowd than to stand and agree with the hostile crowd. And yes, we pro tower folks should be decending on these meetings in force. I have a feeling that’s starting to happen now. This anti-tower group made it clear they wouldn’t tolorate any speaker running past their minute if they were a pro speaker and by contrast if the speaker was a mamber of the doomsday crowd they had no problem cheering for the cause when the speaker “just had and few more comments” to say well past their minute.
      As for the poll response. Bill has set it up pretty fairly and low and behold there seems to be quite a landslide victory so far for the pro tower folks. Very similiar to the poll conducted a year earlier. Go figure.

  5. where’s waldo
    could someone give me a hint? i am currently without a clue. i am able to see only the 10 most recent posts under Recent Comments. unless i religiously read this blog frequently, i am missing out on earlier posts and the history of some of the threads. i am not always aware what someone is responding to. is there a way or a link to review comments that were posted earlier than what is visible on the screen?

    1. Finding comments
      Hi,
      Thanks for asking.
      All comments are attached to stories. When you click on the front-page link to a particular comment, it takes you to a page scrolled to the comment you’ve requested.
      By scrolling up and down that page you will see the rest of the comments on that story and the original story itself.
      You can reach other stories on a particular topic (and the comments on those stories) by clicking on the category links at the top of the story. For instance, for other stories about “Fountain Square” or “Downtown” click on those links.
      Or, you can use the links in the top navigation bar to reach stories about broad topics like “Business” or “Government.”
      Each topic list shows the 10 most recent stories and has a set of “pager” links at the bottom that lets you navigate to earlier ones.
      You also can use the search function in the top navigation bar to find stories (and comments) that contain key words you choose.
      We don’t currently have a way to display earlier comment headlines beyond the most recent 10 in a single location, but it’s an interesting idea and I’ll look into coming up with that.
      — Bill

  6. How Cares About the Tower? Not Me — Save the 8th Ward!
    It’s tme to focus on the quality of life issues in the 8th Ward. Shootings, a body found in a sewer, drive-up drug dealing, empty and unsold taxpayer-subsidized housing units, disorderly teenagers and young adults hanging out on the streets, fist fights in the street, young children (under 12 years old) roaming without supervision late into the night, loud cars. We’ve got it all.

    We need some attention from the City Council to address quality of life issues now. Won’t those of you who live on the north side of the City hear our pleas for your help in persuading your alderperson to focus on this issue?

    And now we have a curfew for young teenagers later than the City of Chicago’s. We expect teenagers looking for trouble to move into Evanston after Chicago’s curfew.

    1. I don’t care either
      I also couldn’t care less about the tower, and am dismayed at the amount of attention it has received from the north side. I am a resident in the 8th ward too, and the problems we have (as the writer above mentioned: gangs, shootings, stabbings, roving groups of teens, drugs, fights, empty buildings) are far more pressing than any concern the tower can dredge up.

      If cleaning up the 8th ward generated the same political storm as the tower did, things would change in no time.

    1. defective survey
      Good point, Michael.
      I too am concerned about the blatant anti-tower bias in this poll. We need a fair and balanced poll.
      But what is “neutral”? No opinion – I can live with it or without it? That is probably the choice of most Evanston residents, who have shown their lack of concern by not voting in the poll, not coming to the Council meeting, and not putting signs on their lawns.
      Then the question is: since most residents aren’t all that worked up about this tower, do we list to the noisy, well-organized group that advocates against it?

      One could argue that we should, because the majority just don’t care.
      This is, unfortunately, how most of our government policies work. For example, I would bet that the majority of Americans don’t pay attention to the question of ethanol policy.. So a small group of special interests who have intense interest gets its way, and we are then forced to use ethanol in our cars. The same is true for dairy price supports, cotton tariffs. This also happens here in Cook County, when the majority of people don’t vote in the elections, groups with intense interest ( unions, government employees) show up, and the result is Todd Stroger.

      But one could also argue that since most people just don’t care one way or another, we should take the side of less regulation, freedom and economic progress. The tower isn’t hurting anybody (oh, please, don’t bring up the shoe store and Class B friends), there is no good reason NOT to build it, so let’s have them build it.

      I drove around Central Street, Linden, and Lincoln today, and saw quite a few of the NIMBY lawn signs. But the fact is, the majority of lawns were UNDECORATED. We can assume that these people either support the tower, don’t care, or are not so passionately opposed that they would put up a yard sign. ( Or they weren’t home when the NIMBY’s knocked on the door.) So, in response to those who claim 90% of Evanston is pro-NIMBY, the lawn signs tell a different story. Among condos and apartments, the number of lawn signs is almost zero – again, most of these people don’t care one way or another, or proably even support the tower.

      We do not have direct democracy here. Now, the aldermen are elected representatives, and they should listen to all the facts (and even the lies that the NIMBY’s tell ) and make the decision based not only on the financial interests of the city, what is good for qualilty of life (yes, downtown residents are good). I would also hope that they would see the benefit of supporting freedom and less regulation, instead of NIMBY authoritarianism.

      I would also like to see an analysis done of the effects of condos on the city’s and schools’ revenue. I see almost no school age children living in these downtown condos, yet we still pay property tax to support the schools. We also pay property tax to support special interests like elm trees and the North Side library ( we could live with the downtown one, and most of us have no kids and don’t go to the library that often.). Senior Center? Well, most of us are younger, and even the retirees in the buildings don’t hang out at the Senior Center too much.

      I suspect that the amount of property tax that we pay exceeds the marginal cost of the services we receive. Yes, I believe that we are subsidizing other neighborhoods of the city. These NIMBY’s should be grateful.

  7. downtown Evanston misconception
    I’ve lived in Evanston 50 years. Honestly, I don’t know what to think about the tower. To those who talk about how charming and quaint Evanston’s downtown used to be, let me set you straight. They rolled up the sidewalks at 5 p.m. except for Thursdays, when stores stayed open until 7 p.m. There were, maybe three restaurants in the 1960s and they were not very good. Nobody went to downtown Evanston for fine dining. By the 1960s, developers had already torn down many of the old, classic buildings that lent charm and grace to the downtown, replacing or completely refacing them.

    There were no wine bars or fine dining with wine, because Evanston was dry. The stores were okay, but heavily weighted toward items that would appeal to “old folks” — stogy clothing stores, stuffy gift shops. It was quiet, sure, but there was a real tattered quality to many of the shops and the entire downtown in general. Nobody lived near downtown except for the oldsters in the Homestead and North Shore Hotel and a few renters above the retail stores.

    Downtown is too crowded today for my tastes, but I chalk that up to my getting old and less patient with crowds and parking than I used to be. Having condos downtown has led to a lot of livening up and a resurgence of activity during the day and in the evenings. Let’s face it, Evanston’s proximity to Chicago makes it an urban environment. Good or bad, it’s a lot closer in character to Chicago than to Wilmette or Winnetka. That’s how communities evolve.

    But the new tower — maybe that’s one too many condo projects. It will bulk up density and displace businesses and offices, especially service establishments, which are scarce enough already. We don’t gain anything by adding a boatload of new residents who then have to leave Evanston to find services or office space. And residents can support only so many street-level retail boutique shops. If the tower were to have a lot of office space on the lower levels, it would be more interesting.

    But don’t think Evanston’s downtown was any great shakes in the 1960s or 1970s.

  8. Fountain Square Tower
    My letter to the alderman/commissioner
    March 24, 2008

    Dear Commissioners,

    I am writing this letter to inform you of my support for the proposed Fountain Square Tower. At a height of 523’, this tower could become a new landmark for downtown Evanston.

    I had the opportunity to attend the plan commission meeting on March 17th, and speak in favor of this development. As you know, many residents are opposed to this tower, stating that the building is too tall and will destroy the character of the city. I disagree with this statement and counter that new developments such as this will in fact enhance the character. This is not the Evanston of 1900, the sleepy college town that didn’t serve liquor. It’s 2008. Evanston isn’t Mayberry, nor should it be. Evanston has had a building over 100’ since the 1920’s and it’s had a tower over 200’ since the 1970’s.

    Several questions arose about the public benefit of this development. Here’s one that wasn’t included in comments made: The sales tax within the entire metropolitan region has just been increased to supplement the RTA. Evanston is served by the CTA, Metra and Pace. Evanston needs to utilize the TOD (transit oriented development) possibilities of the Davis Street Station with density. I’m aware that several developments have recently been developed in the area, but surely it can sustain more. Density along this and other transit stations can help prevent any further tax increases. Not for just Evanston, but for the region. Chicago has just increased its Real Estate Transfer Tax to help subsidize CTA pensions. That increase wasn’t required in Evanston which has abundant service.

    At last weeks meeting a question was raised by one of the commissioners: What other suburban areas similar to Evanston had buildings of such substantial height? At the time the developers were unable to answer, so I’ve done my own research.

    Evanston, Illinois 75,543 Chase Building – 277’

    Southfield, Michigan Pop: 78,296 3000 Town Center – 402’
    White Plains, New York 53,077 Trump Tower at City Center – 354’
    Oakbrook Terrace, Illinois 2,400 Oakbrook Terrace Tower – 418’
    Troy, Michigan 81,118 Top of troy Building – 346’

    It was mentioned in some comments that the current Fountain Square Building should be renovated instead. I must say that the majority of buildings existing on the site are ugly. If they were renovated, some tenants would still be displaced during this period. If the commissioners force the developers to reduce the height of the tower, those tenants will sill be displaced during construction. Also, the tall and thin movement seems to be the rave, and if you force the developers to reduce the height, that just means the development will grow wider. When you sit on a bag of sand it spreads. This has already happened in developments such as Sherman Plaza (276’) and Optima Horizons (162’). These building are short, squat and have created a wall effect. I don’t believe that this is the effect you want.

    I hope that you will consider the approval of the proposal at 708 Church Street.

    Respectfully,

    Butler V. Adams

    (Full disclosure, I’m a Chicago resident)

    1. Very, very ugly
      I agree with you that the whole pie shape property is disgusting. The fountain square building being the ugliest!

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