The earsplitting sound of a crane-mounted drop hammer is ringing out along Howard Street this week, signaling the start of construction on the 17-story Howard-Bristol apartment building two-and-a-half years after its approval by the City Council.

Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, said she’s delighted to finally see the work get underway after long delays caused by difficulties financing the project and negotiations with the Chicago Transit Authority about issues related to the CTA yards that abut the site.

Metal retaining walls will protect Howard Street during excavation work for the new building.

Ald. Rainey said she hopes to hold a party soon at the construction site to celebrate the project that she’s convinced will dramatically revitalize the Howard Street corridor.

Work to upgrade water service to the new building has Howard Street reduced to two traffic lanes.

Marty Stern, the city’s development consultant, told the City Council earlier this year that the financing difficulties for the project stemmed from the lack of significant new construction in the Howard Street area in decades, the unproven market for this type of project and the difficult economics of rental apartments, especially with Cook County’s high real estate taxes.

An architect’s rendering of the proposed building viewed from the southeast.

He said the developer had originally asked for a rebate of all property taxes for the 23-year life of the area’s tax increment financing district, but the city has worked out an agreement to rebate taxes fully for the first five years, and then gradually reduce the rebate percentage, phasing it out completely in the 13th year.

Mr. Stern said the net present value of the forecast stream of real estate tax revenue during the rebate period is $6.9 million. The developer would receive rebates valued at $4 million, with the city retaining the rest.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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