A proposal for a five-story, 55-unit condominium and retail development on the site of the Evanston Theater complex on Central Street goes before the Plan Commission Wednesday.

A proposal for a five-story, 55-unit condominium and retail development on the site of the Evanston Theater complex on Central Street goes before the Plan Commission Wednesday.

An architect’s rendering of the proposed development and restored house looking southeast.

The proposed building would be 57 feet tall, the maximum permitted with planned development allowances in the property’s B2 zoning district.

Developers John Crocker and Robert Horne suggest that their plan to restore a dilapidated Victorian-era farmhouse on the site should count as a public benefit to qualify for the extra height for the new building.

Mr. Crocker told the Site Plan and Appearance Review Committee this week that restoring the house “would preserve an important part of Evanston’s architectural heritage and permanently provide spatial relief along the streetscape.”

He said that under B2 zoning the property could be developed “lotline to lotline” with continuous development.

The house is a local landmark and Preservation Coordinator Carlos Ruiz said the city’s preservation commissioners supported the proposed restoration.

The properties today.

Mr. Crocker said the project at 1700-1722 Central St. would dramatically improve the streetscape and generate over a million dollars a year in new property taxes for the schools and city.

The units would range in price from $300,000 to over $700,000. A quarter of the units would have one bedroom, half would have two bedrooms and the rest would be larger than that.

The proposal includes 99 off-street parking spaces in a ground-level garage. Zoning requirements call for either 106 or 110 spaces, the higher number if the building’s ground-floor retail space includes a restaurant.

Assistant Community Development Director Carolyn Brzezinski said that, given the site’s location a block from the Central Street Metra station and within walking distance of the CTA, she believed the parking proposed is reasonable.

But she suggested that the developers research the demand for parking in other new developments near transit stations in Evanston.

Project architect Michael Breclaw said the new building would be a little over 250 feet long and would be divided into three sections. Fourth-floor units would have large terraces.

Ms. Brzezinski said, “It’s a very handsome building. The scale is very nicely handled.”

Alderman Elizabeth Tisdahl, in whose 7th Ward the site is located, said the project appears to be a quality development and that she’s pretty sure it will be well received.

The theaters have been closed for several years and an earlier proposal by performing arts groups to renovate them fell through for lack of funding.

The existing theater building is constructed to the rear lot line. The developers propose a 1.5-foot setback for the new building, but the zoning code calls for a 10-foot setback.

The alley behind the theaters.

Access to the parking would be from the rear of the building, Mr. Breclaw said, with two garage doors at the west end and one at the east.

Mr. Crocker said he’s had discussions with the owner of Trattoria Trullo, a restaurant in the theater building about being in the new building. “But that’s been a challenge because they can’t be out of business for 18 to 24 months” — the construction time for the new building.

He said, “We’ve also had nice conversations with John Enright at Bluestone,” 1932 Central St., “about opening a second location. It seems like an appropriate concept and we would love for that to happen, but we haven’t talked business terms yet.”

The developers plan to remove a side addition from the house to open up a 18-foot side yard between it and the new building.

The front porch of the house has elaborate gingerbread detail.

Mr. Crocker’s wife, Polly Hawkins, a former Preservation Commission member, said she hoped to organize a series of public workshops that would go hand-in-hand with the restoration work on the house.

“We’d start with restoring wood windows, and can do a great job of showing the window sashes in each stage of the restoration process,” she said.

The developers plan to initially use the house as a sales office for the condo project and then lease it as commercial space.

Related link
City of Evanston – 1700-1722 Central St. Hearing Notice

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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