Developer Thomas Roszak’s plan revealed over the weekend to build a 38-story tower on the Fountain Square block was on the minds of everyone in the room when the Downtown Plan Committee of the Plan Commission met this morning.

Community Development Director James Wolinski said, “Many of us probably feel that rehabbing the existing buildings may be a better way to go than building another tower directly across from Sherman Plaza.”

Assistant Planning Director Dennis Marino said, “I see this block as an opportunity to offer some relief from some of the taller buildings nearby.”

Preservation Planner Carlos Ruiz said members of the Preservation Commission were very concerned that the proposal, while it would save the facade of the landmark Hahn Building in the middle of the block, would result in destruction of the building’s interior – and the loss of the 708 Church St. building, which has recently been suggested as a possible landmark.

But Plan Commissioner David Galloway said, “Roszak is arguing that the center of your downtown should have the tallest buildings – the wedding cake approach. If he were to increase the green space downtown by not replacing the Fountain Square Building, which nobody cares for anyway, he might have a valid argument, though I’m not saying I’m for it.”

Plan Commissioner Larry Widmayer agreed that redevelopment might permit enlarging Fountain Square, but noted the initial Roszak proposal is far taller than what would be permitted under current zoning.

While Mr. Roszak has had preliminary meetings with city officials, he has yet to submit any plans to the city and is still negotiating with property owners about acquiring control of the site. So, it’s unclear when, or if, the project will actually enter the formal review process.

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Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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