Aldermen who voted Tuesday to approve the proposed 35-story tower on the Fountain Square block said they’re optimistic about the city’s future, while opponents voiced fears the city’s economy can’t absorb the new condo units.

“I’m a buyer in the stock of Evanston,” Alderman Edmund Moran, 6th Ward, said.

“We have great developers here and a beautiful product being offered to us,” he added. “It will tell the world that Evanston is not only a great place now, but it will become even greater.”

Alderman Elizabeth Tisdahl, 7th Ward, who opposed the project, said, “The idea of adding 218 units to an oversaturated market is unwise.”

“I’m not seeing the prospects” for new development, Tisdahl said.

But Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, said the city had little to lose and much to gain by approving the development.

“If we approve this project and the world turns as it has in the past,” then it will work out fine, Rainey said. If the economy doesn’t recover, “then we’re all in trouble,” she added, but nothing will change on the block — the existing building will still be there.

“If we don’t approve this and the economy does improve, we’re all going to be looking so foolish because we will have missed our opportunity,” Rainey said.

Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, said she opposed the project and doesn’t see “sunny projections for the economy.”

Alderman Lionel Jean-Baptiste, 2nd Ward, said he remembers how bad the block on the west side of Sherman Avenue between Church and Davis streets looked before developers Tim Anderson and James Klutznick built the Sherman Plaza development.

“Sherman Plaza turned out to look really nice,” Jean-Baptiste said, “I think this developer can do a great job.”

Alderman Anjana Hansen, 9th Ward, said that a year ago she was ready to vote against the project, but the reduction in the building’s proposed site and exclusion of the landmark Hahn Building from the project had helped change her mind.

What’s now Sherman Plaza, “was a haven for criminal activity” with the decaying municipal garage, Hansen said. “People crossed the street to avoid it,” she said. “What we have there now is a vast improvement to what we had before.”

Some project opponents said they’d rather see a shorter building filled with office space on the site.

But, “no one is clamoring at the door of the Civic Center to build office space downtown,” Hansen added.

Alderman Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, dismissed calls by some project opponents to delay a vote on the project until after the April election that will see at least four new aldermen seated on the council.

She noted that the project has been under consideration for nearly two years, and said, “I don’t think 23 months is an any way quick.”

Tuesday’s 6-3 vote to approve the project came at a special meeting of the council’s Planning and Development Committee, which includes all nine aldermen.

Assuming none change their mind, the project appears headed to final approval by the City Council later this month.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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23 Comments

  1. Thank you, Evanston Aldermen
    This could be another great project in downtown Evanston and I applaud the aldermen for voting in favor of it.
    I am very pleased that this project now has the support of the majority of aldermen, and especially happy that the alderman representing my ward (Cheryl Wollin) has voted in favor of it.

    Great job.

  2. Hahn building
    Bill, what exactly is historic about the Hahn building? I don’t object to the tower itself, but it strikes me as an odd setup: 35-story gleaming tower next to a 3-story older building sandwiched between a 5-story brown slab office building.

    Comments?

    1. The ‘historic’ Hahn Building
      Jason Hays asks:
      “Bill, what exactly is historic about the Hahn building?”

      I have asked that same question on EvanstonNow, and have not received a response. As I pointed out before , the NIMBYs often use the word ‘historic’ for things that are just ‘old’.

      The Hahn Building, in particular, is often described as ‘the Historic Hahn Building’, in the style of a Homeric epithet , like ‘the gray-eyed goddess Athena’ or ‘the winedark sea’.

      Several of these Homeric references to the Hahn Building seem to originate from the ECRD page or the Southeast Evanston Assn. page, or some guy named ‘Chris’ on the Blair Kamin’s Chicago Tribune message board . {Who could this person be? I wonder.}

      I too want to know what is so historic about the Hahn Building. It is old, not necessarily historic. The same is true for the Civic Center. Chuckie Dawes’ place is also of questionable historic value.

      One thing that the NIMBYs don’t seem to understand is that when you call everything ‘historic’ just because it is old, you are really cheapening the value of the word. If the Hahn Building is historic, like the Dawes Place and the Civic Center…then will we add the Best Western or the Burger King to our list of ‘Historic’ sites in a few years?

      1. The Hahn building and our generous Council
        Mr. Who Knows What? must have been too immersed in his cocoa puffs to not know (and a Kellogg prof yet!) that the Hahn building is both an Evanston landmark by Council designation and on the National Register of Historic Places.

        Our Council, no doubt taken with the stimulus fervor, has given its own shovel ready stimulus to needy developers. The Downtown Plan has been passed, after years of “NIMBY” and citizen resistance, but the enacting ordinances, which include zoning, required bonuses, etc. have not been passed.

        We have a “guideline” for a plan which will be put into place in the future. Thus the current zoning, namely the Planned Development Process, is the law under which the 708 project is being evaluated.

        If the project had been held until the new ordinances went into effect, this proposal would not meet the required bonuses to allow Klutznick to go from the 25 story base, in the core, to 35 stories (the height, with mechanicals, may not be allowed)

        However, the Downtown Plan has not been enacted, but what Klutznick did, and the Council permitted under Planned Development, was to save money on construction costs, since he is proposing the same number of units, but 14 stories shorter, and flattened the building. The previous pedestrian friendly set backs are now gone. At 35 stories, it’s already the tallest.

        A subsequent purchaser could theoretically come in (I do not think that the construction/permits have been issued yet) during that period and build a similar structure.

        So we have given Klutznick a property that is much more valuable, not bound by the Downtown Plan, and saved quite a bit of money — now we understand why they trudged so long and hard.

        Klutznick barely got Sherman Plaza built in the boom years, can he get this done in the current times?… that is the best hope.

        Back to your shoveling your coca puffs.

        1. vito, please answer my question
          Vito says:
          “Mr. Who Knows What? must have been too immersed in his cocoa puffs to not know (and a Kellogg prof yet!) that the Hahn building is both an Evanston landmark by Council designation and on the National Register of Historic Places.”

          My question was..WHY is the Hahn Building historic. It sounds like you are saying that it is historic because it is on the National Register of Historic Places. This appears to be a circular argument.

          Actually, I did a quick check of the National Register and didn’t see the Hahn Building. Maybe it is listed under a street address, not as ‘Hahn Building’. The only reference I found was this . So it was designed by the architect John Nyden. Interesting…John Nyden’s biography says that he designed “a number of new churches and apartment buildings.“….but Nyden designed hundreds of buildings, and it sounds like most of them were losers. Nothing special about the Hahn Building. It is just old.

          Maybe the Hahn Building is there in the Register…I don’t have time to check thoroughly – maybe I’ll have one of my grad students or research assistants look into it.

          Still, Vito…can you can tell me WHY the Hahn Building is historic?

          1. The question
            You can obtain the nomination from the city’s Preservation Coordinator, it will list the criteria that the building satisfies to meet the designation. With your minions in professorial Valhalla that should be a minor task and save me a trip to the Civic Center. I also would not know how to get it to you since you have not taken your vigil outside 708 and you continue to hide your identity. Have you not paid your taxes? Is that why you are hiding?

            Now please respond to the Council’s stimulus circumvention of the vaunted shovel ready Downtown Plan for which we have paid consultants dearly.

          2. previous pedestrian friendly set backs are now gone
            Vito says:
            “However, the Downtown Plan has not been enacted, but what Klutznick did, and the Council permitted under Planned Development, was to save money on construction costs, since he is proposing the same number of units, but 14 stories shorter, and flattened the building. The previous pedestrian friendly set backs are now gone.

            Yes…this has been pointed out before. Thanks to the activism of our NIMBYs, we will have a chunky shorter building instead of a tall graceful building. The NIMBYs worked their same magic on Chicago Ave. and Optima Horizons.

            So..what good has all of this NIMBY activism done? Can anyone name one positive accomplishment of all the NIMBY activism over the years?

            An empty field at Kendall…a crumbling Civic Center..a shabby row of empty storefronts on Orrington..

            bafflegab, I say…bafflegab

            I wish that the NIMBYs could get over their obsession with height, and look at the bigger picture. But, unfortunately, they do not have enquiring minds.

          3. An empty field at Kendall…a crumbling Civic Center….
            Mr. Who Knows What?, you complain about a crumbling Civic Center? Don’t you know that our City Council and City suffer from Deferred Maintenance Syndrome(DMS). DMS also afflicted the Crown Center. A variant has also attacked the Police and Fire Pension Fund. Fountain Square has a temporary recovery.

            The loading dock and garage entrances make up for the pedestrian friendly setbacks. Some people might mistake them for a plaza.

            As for Kendall, well, Smithfield is not as clever as Klutznick in getting a stimulus package from the Council.

            You must think the NIMBYs caused the closing of Cereality, thereby denying you your cocoa puffs. I would consider that a positive.

          4. Deferred Maintenance and police pension fund
            Vito says:
            “Mr. Who Knows What?, you complain about a crumbling Civic Center? Don’t you know that our City Council and City suffer from Deferred Maintenance Syndrome(DMS). DMS also afflicted the Crown Center. A variant has also attacked the Police and Fire Pension Fund. Fountain Square has a temporary recovery”

            So what’s your point, Vito? You don’t like deferred maintenance? You don’t like deferring pension expenses?

            Aren’t you the one who only lives in the present? “We need the money now!” “Short term!” How can you criticize past Council members, when it looks like they did exactly what you advocate?

            We are suffering now because our previous legislators – and the voters who elected them – put aside the long term,ignored NPV, and only concentrated on the short term.

          5. It finally gets through the cocoa puffs
            “Mr. Who Knows What?” finally gets it:

            “We are suffering now because our previous legislators – and the voters who elected them – put aside the long term,ignored NPV, and only concentrated on the short term.”

            Mr.WKW? finally understands how our City government mishandled funding and repair. Perhaps he can give them tutorials on NPV, the long term, and that you cannot ignore problems for long. The temptation to ignore NPV, such as with the Extended Middle Finger, will only come back to haunt them.

            Perhaps you can offer them some of your prized cocoa puffs as a short term inducement. I am sure NU will give you time off, even a sabbatical, as their part in Fair Share. Your effort might be rewarded in the long term, a Nobel prize or perhaps your image on a box of cocoa puffs.

          6. Is that the Evanston you really want ?
            While I don’t think Evanston needs yet another high rise Condo tower, I don’t think we want to turn it into a retirement community either.

            Your article talks about low unemployment and a low number of foreclosures in Santa Barbara. Who is going to be unemployed, if the average age is over 65 ?

            Perhaps we should elect some members of the WCTU to the city council, and turn the town dry again.

          7. santa barbara
            “Perhaps we should elect some members of the WCTU to the city council, and turn the town dry again.”

            Well…Mimi is running in the 9th, and she is a big Frances Willard fan…

            You bring up a good point, ‘Not moving’. The reason that there was no bust in Santa Barbara is that there never was any growth. Oh sure, property values went up and all that…but the economic growth, people actually working in California, was elsewhere. Evanston is a real city, not a resort or retirement home that lives of income from elsewhere (unless you count the $$$ funneled into the city by NU students..and I’m sure Vito doesn’t want to hear about that)

            How many jobs were created for young people in Santa Barbara – other than landscaping? How many startups were formed there?

            Sure, we can have prosperity in our city if we just make it impossible for anyone without money to live here. Perhaps a flat tax of $6000 per person would ensure that all of the unwealthy would move south of Howard St. Those of us who remain could then enjoy our prosperous city, and save on social services ( and spend the money on elm trees and restoring Chuckie D’s house)

            I should also point out that one major reason the over 65 crowd is doing OK in this depression is the most sucessful government program of all time…

            SOCIAL SECURITY!!!!

            And remember…GW Bush and his gang tried to PRIVATIZE Social Security. I’m glad that my parents’ retirement wasn’t in Citicorp stock. (and MetaCynic, don’t tell me about gold..gold just happens to be in a bubble now, like oil last year..)

          8. Kellog
            Mr. Who Knows:

            Are you really a Kellog professor?

            I would like to know- I have a lot of friends who have been through the program. Perhaps you had them as students?

            What do you teach? Department affiliation?

            Thanks!

  3. Comments from John Zbesko to the P and D Committee
    I am not here tonight to speak for or against the proposed Tower. It is too late for that.

    Nationally, the economy is in a free fall. Some blame the regulators for not reining in a surge in sub-prime mortgage lending for speculative real estate development.

    In Evanston, our regulators, the City Council, never seemed to be able to say no to any major development and continues to approve extensions and new projects of questionable economic viability. Already, businesses and people are leaving 708 Church Street. Several other properties are vacant.

    As this Council reaches the end of its term, its legacy is plain. A glut of condos, four vacant lots, one hole in the ground from a development half completed between Ridge and Oak, and most likely a vacant building in the heart of downtown.

    I hope and pray the next City Council can direct a new phase of balanced economic development that leaves Evanston less prone to busts after booms.

    Thank you.

  4. “Really nice”
    “Sherman Plaza turned out to look really nice,” Jean-Baptiste said, “I think this developer can do a great job.”

    Not sure if anyone saw the article, but the Chicago Tribune rated the Sherman Plaza in the Top Ten Ugliest Buildings of this decade….

    1. Bridget, Have you ever
      Bridget, Have you ever driven by Jean-Baptiste’s office on Asbury and Emerson?

      Compared to that building, Sherman Plaza is dream!

      1. Before and after
        Just look at the comparison in Bill’s story showing the old Osco and parking garage. I think it is a vast improvement! It may be difficult to see from the street level, but there is also some quite lovely green space scattered over several levels of the building.

        What, precisely, is supposed to be so horrible about the Plaza?

  5. Historic sometimes refers to architectural quality
    I can’t really say if and why the Hahn building is historic. But I do believe it has some architectural qualities that make it unique. The front stone and masonry facade for one. There is also potential, and this has been discussed, where you could use the alley that cuts inside the building as an entrance to stores – a feature seen in many older European cities.

    In terms of the Dawes house, yes, it’s historic but more importantly, extremely unique in architectural quality.

    To build a similar home like the Dawes house is not only immensely expensive but highly improbable. To suggest this home should not be preserved is ludicrous and borderline criminal.

    1. architectural quality
      Anonymous Al says:
      “I can’t really say if and why the Hahn building is historic. But I do believe it has some architectural qualities that make it unique. The front stone and masonry facade for one. There is also potential, and this has been discussed, where you could use the alley that cuts inside the building as an entrance to stores – a feature seen in many older European cities.”

      My guess is that 99% of Evanston residents have never been inside the ‘Historic Hahn Building’, and would have no reason to go inside it. If this building is to be preserved, then the idea of a ‘facadectomy’, where the shell is preserved and interior gutted, is probably most desirable.

      As for the ‘Dawes House’, which attracts maybe 800 visits per year of which maybe 790 are bored schoolchildren: I don’t see anything worthwhile about preserving big houses just because it would cost a lot to rebuild them. If a rich person wants to buy the house and live there, that is fine. NU has no obligation to preserve it, the City doesn’t, nor does the Federal Government, and apparently not many people are willing to contribute their own money to save it. I say, sell it to a private owner, or find a way to convert it to a bed and breakfast or something.

      Preserving old buildings, in their old state, just because they are old is a terrible waste of resources. For some buildings, this makes sense: Monticello, Mt.Vernon, a few others. But the Hahn Building? If it can’t be modernized and adapted for modern use, there is no need to keep it.

      Does anyone miss that old house on Central Street or the old theaters? Or the old Woolworth’s building?

      I say: if these so-called preservationists are so determined to preserve the Dawes House, the Historic Hahn Building, and the 708 Church Building – then the only way to do it is to come up with a successful and sustainable modern use.

      Dawes House: Can this bring in enough paying visitors to cover maintenance? Can it be used for wedding receptions or public meetings? Can the upstairs be converted to offices? Can the EHS raise enough money to cover costs? Let’s see the EHS come up with a plan, instead of fighting NU.

      The Historic Hahn Building: It is very shabby. Again, do the ‘preservationists’ have a plan to purchase this building and restore it to its former glory? An arcade of shops, like Al says, might work. If they can’t come up with a way to sustain it – and not let it just continue to decay – then they are not doing anyone any good.

      Most of all, the 708 Church Building: This one is a real loser. I haven’t seen any credible alternative to tearing it down. It is not historic, not high quality, it is ugly. And the towerphobes want it to remain a haven for low-rent offices. Low-rent means low-maintenance…a decaying building in the middle of downtown!

      I don’t want to live in a decaying city of charming ruins.

      1. I agree with Mr. Who Knows.
        I agree with Mr. Who Knows. If preservationists are so moved by these decaying hulks, then they should organize themselves to purchase and rehab them. Otherwise they should get out of the way of developers who can add value to the land. Sherman Plaza is overall undoubtedly an egregious eyesore but so was what preceded it. At least Sherman Plaza is more appealing at street level.

  6. They don’t build them like they used to
    The phrase, “They don’t build them like they used to,” is valid.

    I’ve been in the Hahn building and it could be modernized with A/C and forced air. Although, for me, it’s not entirely impressive (I do strongly support the so-called tower – it’s really a highrise)

    One example is plaster walls. Before World War 11, interior walls were plaster that were built by plasterers – craftsman long dead and gone. Now we use drywall – cheap. Half my home is plaster and the other half is drywall. There is no soundproofing in my drywall, and I can hear everything upstairs and downstairs – not fun when you have small children fighting all the time. Drywall is simply cheap material.

    Also, take a look at all of the Irish 3-flats dotting the Chicago landscape – a terrible eyesore of buildings that are poorly designed and cheaply built – the drywall and cinderblock wonders of the world.

    The Dawes home is beautiful with its woodwork and the exterior design as well. I would shutter to think of any new building placed in its stead.

    A bed and breakfast at Dawes house? That’ll be cool. Maybe the new IHOP at the now vacant Roycemore site could cater.

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