Opponents of two high-rise towers on Emerson Street failed Monday to slow review of the revived projects by sending them back to the Plan Commission.

The City Council’s Planning and Development Committee instead voted to schedule its own review of the plans from Carroll Properties and the Fifield Companies for the committee’s Jan. 14 meeting.

Aldermen Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, and Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, argued for the detour to the Plan Commission.

But Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, said the detour could add six months to the review process for the $106 million project and could end up killing it.

While the city’s zoning code provides an option for review by the Plan Commission of revisions to planned development proposals, no recent project has been sent on that path. In eight cases in recent years the City Council has opted to review changes to project plans itself instead.

The city’s law department presented a memo to aldermen indicating the return trip to the Plan Commission was not required, because the City Council retains final oversight over any project once it’s approved.

Wynne argued that the changes in the plans for the buildings at 1881 Oak Ave. and 1890 Maple Ave. appeared to be more substantial than those in other projects that the council has approved before.

But David Reifman, an attorney for the developers, said the new design for the buildings is smaller and shorter than what was originally approved.

He said that the plan to combine the parking deck for the two towers into a single structure at the base is a less dramatic change than the move the City Council approved at 1700 Ridge to combine what had initially been proposed as two buildings into a single structure.

And he said the 7-percent increase in the number of dwelling units in this project is much less than the 17-percent increase at 1700 Ridge or the 50-percent increase approved for a development on Central Street.

Two residents of the Optima Views condo tower two blocks south of Emerson were among a handful of neighbors objecting to the revived project. Optima Views had been a hotbed of opposition to the original plans for the developments on Emerson, which initially were approved in 2006 and 2009.

The Emerson development would restrict views to the north from some units on lower floors of the Optima Views building.

Aldermen Don Wilson, 4th Ward, and Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, joined Rainey to defeat, on a 3-2 vote, the plan to send the project back to the Plan Commission.

Top: A rendering of the new design for the project, looking southwest from the corner of Maple Avenue and Emerson Street.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Fiske the obstructionist again

    When I read there were two aldermen opposed to this project I knew immediately one would have to be Fiske.  I was dead on.

    Look at her record and you'll soon undestand that any Evanston project that is progressive — or alters her idea of what Evanston should be — is what she opposes.  This is not the 1950's and Evanston needs more developoment to survive and prosper.

    Yes we need to be vigilant and selective about what this project means to the city.  But, please stop putting roadblocks in front of those who wish to do business here. 

    Fiske needs to go.  I so hope that someone with intelligence and vision steps up to run against her in the First Ward. 

    1. Fiske needs to go.

      "Fiske needs to go.  I so hope that someone with intelligence and vision steps up to run against her in the First Ward."

      Your wish has been granted!  Check out  tivador4alderman.com

      Now we need to make sure that every first ward resident with intelligence and vision steps up to vote for Ed Tivador!

      The dummies will show up on Tuesday…they always do, since they have nothing better to do….but now is the time for the rest of us- the ones who don't show up to protest at every council meeting, the ones who don't like Evanston's high taxes, the ones who favor cooperation instead of constant confrontation with Northwestern-to come out and vote.

  2. Progressive?

    This is just another dead end project that will come to the city with their palms outstretched. It was going to be condos and Trader Joes. Then vacant lots next to our dead end Research Park. Now rental? Please spare us the "anti-Nimby" tears. Fiske is doing her job. Too bad she and Rainey seem to be the only ones.

  3. Thank heavens…

    …that someone on the Council is keeping the aldermen honest — or at least some version of it. Otherwise we'd have the blind leading the blind. In this case, the first "blind" means city staff who are so desperate to kowtow to developers and other vested interests that they abandon all objectivity, let alone interest in civic responsibility, and rubber stamp every piece of paper that gets put on their desks. And the second "blind" is the majority of the City Council, which thinks it knows better than residents what's best for the city, and thus ignores every reasonable question, citizen objection, persuasive argument and working compromise in order to fulfill a hidden agenda that no one in Evanston understands. So, once again we have one alderman who's responsible enough to say there are some questions here and let's look into it, and the other aldermen saying, oh, we don't need to know anymore. I suggest we make the new Evanston motto: Ignorance Is Bliss — At Least Until We Slide Into The Lake And Then Beg Northwestern To Save Us (And They Just Laugh). In Ald. Fiske, the 1st Ward has intelligence and vision, plus diligence, competence and responsiveness. It's the other aldermen who need to be challenged. Come April, it's time to take back Evanston from these buffoons before they can do anything else to ruin this wonderful city.

  4. What are the vacany rates now ?

    In the past the city published vacany rates so they must have them now.

    What are the rental and if available condo/coop and housing vacany rates ?  And for Condo/coop and housing those caused by foreclosure ?

    The population does not seem to be increasing and word of mouth is that some of the high rise buildings of the last 10 years have high vacancy rates already.

  5. Yes to progress

    My understanding is that the developer is going to spend over 100 million dollars of his money, not city money, to build this project.  Maybe I missed it but I don't remember him going to the city with any outstretched palm.  One thing I know for sure though, the project will deliver well over 1 million dollars of support each and every year to the city, school districts and parks in taxes. 

    Requesting approval isn't requesting a subsidy and his request for quick approval probably stems from Evanston's massive history of unnecessary hurdles and obstructionist behavior created by the likes of Judy Fisk and her NIMBY supporters.  Can't think of one downtown project where the massive and repeated NIMBY outcry of dead ends and falling skies has ever materialized. 

    Who cares whether Trader Joe's went there or not, who cares that it is now rental instead of condo, all completely irrelevant.


    1. Yes, You Did Miss It.
      Mr. King and associates went to the city with palm outstretched in the spring of 2009. The Council approved two potential tax rebates in May 2009, which Bill reported on here:
      “Council OKs 1890 Maple Tax Breaks”

      The relevant paragraphs:
      “The two tax breaks would kick in only if the project is successfully built and occupied.

      One would reimburse the developer for half the city’s portion of incremental real estate tax revenue generated by the new development. That benefit could last for up to 20 years and is capped at $1.9 million.

      The other tax break would reimburse the developer from sales tax revenue generated by a proposed grocery store at the site for the cost of subsidizing the rent rate to attract a grocer.

      That program would provide up to an $11 per square foot annual reimbursement for a store of at least 12,000 square feet. It would be limited to 15 years. Depending on the size of the store, that could total as much as $3 million.”

      As the grocery seems to be no longer part of the development, it is probably safe to assume that deal is no longer valid. As to the city’s increment, it doesn’t seem so cut-and-dried.


      1. I did miss it.

        Then you are correct, I did miss it.  I assume the TJ part of the plan is no longer material.  The question then remains about the incremental r.e. tax reimbursement.  So if it kicks in only after the project is built, and therefore taxable no matter the rental occupancy, and has a cap of $1.9 million over twenty years it is still an extremely great thing for the city. 

        If the project will generate 1.2 million annually then thats 24 million dollars over that twenty year period.  Actually will be much higher than that because taxes in Evanston only go higher.  Minus the maximum cap of 1.9 million in reimbursement then the the schools districts and the city is still up 22.1 million dollars. 

        Once again maybe I missed something, but some quick back of the napkin math tells me that if we are asked to forgo 1.9 million over 20 years in return for receiving 22.1 million over 20 years, then we the citizens, our schools and parks, win by 22.1 million bucks.  As a taxpayer, I can support that type of development assistance.  

  6. 1st Ward Fiske

    Judy Fiske votes to give away $2.05 million to a billionaire-owned company while supporting shutting a library for our children, and then voted to keep empty blighted lots with little tax revenue instead of new buildings producing massive benefits for our city.

    Bizarre, but true.  Time for her to go.

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