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First look at second tower plan

Developers of a second tower proposed for Evanston’s Fountain Square block unveiled designs for the 37-story building at a meeting of the city’s development staff this afternoon.

The proposal, from developers R.D. Horner & Associates and HSA Commercial Real Estate and the architectural firm Daniel P. Coffey and Associates, calls for the developers to rebuild the public plaza at Fountain Square and slip two levels of underground parking for the condominium high-rise under the public plaza.

The developers would demolish the existing Fountain Square building and replace it with a two-story restaurant building that would be topped with an expanded public plaza space, connected to the ground level plaza by an exterior stairway.

The tower would be supported on pillars rising over the landmark Hahn Building at midblock and the tower would be set back 9 to 10 feet from the Hahn Building’s street facades and 16 feet from the north property line.

Architect Daniel Coffey said creating an open air space under the tower and tapering the tower’s sides would lessen the wind tunnel effect the building might otherwise create and he suggested the new building would likely make the square less windy than it is with the existing Fountain Square building.

Assistant City Manager Judy Aiello said the developer would need to perform a wind study to determine whether the design will actually improve wind conditions in the square.

The design includes a driveway just south of the Hahn Building that would provide access to the garage and a covered entry to the condo tower.

To eliminate the space required for parking ramps, the plan calls for a valet service to use elevators to move cars in and out of the garage.

About 1,500 square feet of the restaurant building would extend beyond the Sherman and Orrington avenue property lines of the Fountain Square building. The developers propose extending the sidewalks into the existing street area to handle the pedestrian traffic.

The project would include two stories of retail space in the refurbished Hahn Building, with the third floor likely converted to residential lofts. Above the open fourth level would rise 33 floors of condos, each floor with about 12,000 square feet of space.

Under the plan Fountain Square’s bronze plaques with names of Evanstonians who died in the nation’s wars would be placed on new pillars in the redesigned plaza.

The developers say the project would include just under 1.5 parking spaces for each residential unit, but no parking for the retail space. They argue that the new building would have no more commercial space than what is in the two existing building now, and they have no on-site parking.

They also contend that there is sufficient retail parking available in the nearby Sherman Plaza garage.

Mr. Coffey said he was confident that the caissons to support the tower can be inserted into the Hahn Building while still preserving its structure and said his firm has worked on several similar projects in Chicago.

Ms. Aiello said she was concerned about whether the roof area above the restaurant would actually be perceived to be public space and said "the liability issue of having the public up there scares me."

The city’s preservation coordinator, Carlos Ruiz, said he anticipates that the Preservation Commission will have concerns about whether the project meets the standards for changes to landmark buildings set by the preservation ordinance.

He suggested that additional open space between the tower and the historic building might help address those concerns.

As with the first, 49-story Fountain Square tower plan, from developers Tim Anderson and James Klutznick, the new proposal dramatically exceeds existing zoning limits for the block.

Since the two proposals involve different land parcels, it is conceivable the City Council could approve both.

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