Evanston’s Preservation Commission continued an earlier discussion of a proposal by the Tannenbaum Chabad House Tuesday night to modify its structure on Orrington Avenue and put it on hold for further discussion at its September meeting.
The Jewish center for Northwestern students, located at 2014 Orrington Ave., “is ugly, not inviting, and we need more space,” said Rabbi Dov Hillel Klein, executive director, who told the commission that his organization wishes to add a story to its building, rather than making it longer.
City code permits maximum height of 35 feet, or 2.5 stories, whichever is less. The Chabad proposal calls for a height of 35 feet, but it contains a knee wall that exceeds three feet, which legally constitutes a full third story and, therefore, requires a zoning variation from the city.
The Chabad House as it looks today.
Nearby neighbors at 2005, 2011, and 2015 Orrington testified that, although Chabad has been a “good neighbor,” and that the existing building is, indeed, an “eyesore,” they contended that the design needed more work.
A rendering of the proposed renovation and expansion.
As one said: “It needs a little more tweaking, a little less glass.”
And commission member Elliott Dudnik opined that “when I look at it, there’s just too much going on. Everything is out of scale.”
Rabbi Klein explained that his building “is a synagogue.” Evanston’s neighborhoods contain churches that look like churches and a mosque that looks like a mosque, he noted, but Chabad chose to respect the residential nature of its neighborhood by incorporating a design that looks more residential than institutional.
As the discussion subsided, Commission Chair Diane Williams said “we would like to take another look at this” and entertained a motion to continue consideration at the commission’s next meeting, scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 19.
Tannenbaum Chabad House, while not formally a part of Northwestern, serves Jewish students at the university with classes, meetings, and lectures.