A city staff committee voted Wednesday to recommend the Evanston City Council approve a proposed 11-story research and office development at 1740 Orrington Ave.

Johnny Carlson of the Trammell Crow Company, which is proposing the building, said it is designed to attract companies developing life science products.

Johnny Carlson.

He said that despite a general softening of office demand during the COVID-19 pandemic there is high demand for the type of research lab space the new building will offer.

“You can’t do this type of work in your basement,” Carlson said, “so work from home wouldn’t work for these firms.”

Matt Blewitt.

Architect Matt Blewitt said the building will have an entry plaza facing Clark Street that is set back from the street face.

The planned entrance to the office building on Clark Street.

The building, he said, will have large expanses of glass “maximizing views and light into the building and a large roof deck and balconies on each floor facing toward the northwestern campus.

Libby Hill, of the group Bird Friendly Evanston, said that she believes the building design “is on the right path” to protect migrating birds after meetings with the developers.

City staff raised a variety of relatively minor concerns, including providing showers off the bike storage room and providing a straight path for pedestrians past a potential sidewalk cafe.

City Planner Michael Griffith said, “It looks like a really well-thought-out plan, with a lot of attention to all the details. It’s a really good use and design for the site.”

Ald. Clare Kelly (1st) asked that the developers conduct a wind study to make sure the building wouldn’t create a wind tunnel effect along the street.

She noted that the city’s zoning code calls for buildings to have a 40-foot ziggurat setback about 32 feet above ground level.

The building plans call for a setback that would vary between six and 11 feet.

Community Development Director Johanna Nyden said the ziggurat setback rule is one of many aspects of the zoning code that needs to be re-evaluated as part of the city’s upcoming comprehensive plan process.

Nyden said that while a 40-foot setback could make sense on a project like Sherman Plaza that occupies almost an entire block, it’s impractical on a much smaller site, like the Orrington Avenue one.

The property currently contains a shuttered Burger King restaurant and a vintage three-story apartment building.

The project next goes to the city’s new Land Use Commission for a hearing before it will reach the City Council for a final decision.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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