Evanston’s Preservation Commission voted Tuesday night to issue a certificate of appropriateness for the proposed adaptive reuse of the Masonic Temple building on Maple Avenue to provide 30 apartment units.
But the commission directed architect Mike Karkowski of Myefski Associates to work with city staff to explore options to screen or otherwise make more attractive a proposed handicap lift at the front entrance to the landmark building at 1453 Maple.
Commission Chair Suzi Reinhold had initially objected to plans to add windows and recessed balconies on the now-blank north façade of the building.
But after extensive discussion of the issue during the meeting, she said those plans “make much more sense now to me.”
“I applaud you,” she said to the designers, “for being very careful about what you have been doing on the project.”
Two residents offering public comment on the proposal objected to changing the building’s use from an assembly hall to apartments.
Len Koroski said the developers should either maintain the existing interior of the building or lower the number of apartments included.
Jack Weiss said the exterior design worked “reasonably well” but that the city should demand a reduction in the number of dwelling units to justify zoning variations requested for the project.
The commission can comment on, but doesn’t have authority to rule on the zoning variations, and after considerable discussion the commissioners opted to not take a stand on the zoning changes.
Vice-chair Stuart Cohen said buildings of assembly, because of the way the structures are designed, are very difficult to repurpose for an entirely different use.
If the building wasn’t turned into apartments, Cohen suggested, it likely could be faced with demolition.
Cohen criticized the small size of the proposed apartments, but Reinhold responded that the commission’s purview was limited to the exterior appearance of the building.
The project is next scheduled to be reviewed by the Land Use Commission — which will consider the interior as well as exterior design aspects of the development and the zoning variations requested.
A final decision on whether to approve the project is up to the City Council.