The developer who won city approval in 2007 to build condos on the old Evanston Theater site on Central Street met with Central Street Neighbors Association members Tuesday night to describe his plans to construct rental apartments there instead.

About 50 people turned out for the meeting, held at the Evanston Ecology Center, to hear the developer, Robert D. Horne, president of Dodge Capital LLC, and his architect, Michael L. Breclaw of OKW Architects, describe the proposed four-story property that would include 78 apartments, 11,500 square feet of retail space (enough for four to eight businesses, depending upon size), and 78 off-street parking spaces for residents.

An additional 31 parking spaces would be available nearby in the Ryan Field parking lot for customers of the retail businesses, Horne said, under an arrangement with the city, which controls 100 spaces there through an agreement with Northwestern University.

The dimensions of the building are essentially compatible with the structure approved by the city in 2007, although it varies slightly from the requirements of the Central Street plan enacted subsequently by the city that would not apply.

The new structure, however, is expected to comply with new environmental regulations. Architect Breclaw said the new design is expected to earn LEEDS Silver certification, resulting in a more energy-efficient design than the condominium plan.

Top: A rendering of the new design for the project. Above: Residents listen to the presentation.

In the question period following the presentation, residents asked about setbacks, traffic impacts, parking, and alley access, but the tone of the meeting fell short of being adversarial, and comments by attendees after the meeting were generally favorable to the plan.

One nearby business owner complained that, since the old buildings were demolished, his walk-in traffic has virtually disappeared. “I look forward to the completion of this project,” he said.

Helping to mollify dissent was the developer’s estimate that tax revenue from the new building would be in the range of $350,000 – $400,000 annually, compared with $12,000 – $15,000 currently as vacant land and about $110,000 before the old buildings were demolished.

The 78 apartments will range from studios to three-bedroom units, with monthly rentals expected to be in the $1,900 – $2,300  range. The city’s requirements for affordable housing units do not apply to rental buildings, according to Dennis Marino, manager of planning and zoning for the city, who attended the meeting along with Sixth Ward Alderman Jane Grover.

Horne predicted that many tenants would work for Evanston Hospital or would be graduate students at Northwestern.

The building would also appeal to commuters, due to its location between the Central Street Metra and CTA stations. It is also on the No. 201 CTA bus line that connects downtown Evanston with the Old Orchard shopping center in Skokie.

Charles Bartling

A resident of Evanston since 1975, Chuck Bartling holds a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and has extensive experience as a reporter and editor for daily newspapers, radio...

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  1. Looks great

    Exactly what that supposed to be busy street needs, retail with residential on top.  Local stores patronized by local people.  I could really see a restaurant there, coffee and lunch on a sidewalk cafe, a few shops to service the neighborhood.  Well done, Bravo.    

  2. Central Street Project Not Detered By Green Building Ord.

    Kudos to the developer for not trying to bully the city into weakening its building code like the selfish owners of Gordon Foods tried to do.

    1. The city is the real bully

      The city is the real bully here. GFS wants to invest in a poorer part of town and the city tries to tell them how to spend their money, Given our current fiscal situation, they have proven that they are inept at that. If LEED certification were cost effective, GFS would certainly would build to those standards as they are the one paying the electric bill. Its the silly, patronizing regulations like this that lead to all the empty storefronts in our lovely city

      1. Please understand the nature of building codes.

        This is a bit misinformed.  All cities have building codes. Developers have to work within the confines of those codes.

        The city wasn't "telling them how to spend their money."  Private developers can spend their money in any way they see fit as long as they meet ordinance requirements.  It works the same virtually everywhere.

        Also, your point about "empty storefonts" is strange.  If GFS had wanted to they could locate their store in any of these "empty storefronts" and avoid the regulations for new buildings that they objected to.

        It is also curious timing that GFS  were  given approval for their development under the provisions of an ordinance that hasn't even been passed yet.

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