A developer is hoping to turn a vacant industrial building in Evanston constructed in the 1920s as an ice production and storage facility into 16 condominium units.
The property, at 609 South Blvd., is about 350 feet from the South Boulevard CTA station, and the developer is hoping that location will lead the city to waive rules that normally would require the building to have 27 parking spaces and instead provide just one space per unit.
A rendering of planned renovations to the building’s exterior.
At a meeting of the city’s Design and Project Review Committee Wednesday, project architect John Myefski said the building completely fills the lot, and the complex design of the structure, which was apparently built in stages over an extended period of time, would make it extremely difficult to provide any additional parking spaces.
Developer Jeff Scales is also requesting a variance to permit the 16 units, where 12 normally would be allowed on the site.
Architect Myefski describes the project to the committee as developer Scales watches the presentation.
Myefski said the building has a very large amount of internal space and that even divided into 16 units it will still have an unusually high number of larger units for a condo project — with two one-bedroom, eight two-bedroom and six three-bedroom units.
Other than learning that the building was constructed as an ice house and later housed a printing plant and still later was used as warehouse space, Myefski said, little is known about the history of the building.
But it has “cranes and trusses and every structural system known to man,” the architect said, but also “the largest piece of steel I’ve ever seen in my life” in what’s to become the parking garage, which is one reason coming up with a workable layout for the garage proved difficult.
Although “it’s mess inside,” Myefski said, “I think this is one of the coolest buildings in Evanston,” and a key goal of the redevelopment will be to reopen all the window openings that had been bricked in or converted to glass brick over the years.
The city’s community development director, Mark Muenzer, said that, given the volume and bulk of the building “the unit mix you’re providing makes sense.”
“This meets the definition of transit-oriented development that we’re trying to promote in the community,” he added, “I think it’s an excellent use of the building.”
But he added that with the City Council continuing to discuss inclusion of affordable housing in new developments, he “will recommend that that issue be addressed.”
The committee voted Wednesday to recommend approval of the project to the Zoning Board of Appeals, which is scheduled to review it on Tuesday, July 21.