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New record height sought downtown

The developers of the Sherman Plaza complex are moving ahead with plans for a new skyscraper across the street on the Fountain Square block that would double the height record for Evanston.

Evanston Community Development Director James Wolinski confirmed this morning that Focus Development Inc. and the Klutznick-Fisher Development Company submitted a request to the city this week for a zoning analysis on a proposed building at 708 Church St. that would be about 50 stories tall.

That would make it roughly twice as tall as the 277-foot, 1969-vintage, Chase Bank building at 1603 Orrington Ave. or the new 276-foot, 25-story Sherman Plaza building.

Mr. Wolinski said the development plans involve only the two-story 708 Church St. building, which also has frontage on Sherman and Orrington Avenues at the north end of the block, and not the three-story landmark Hahn Building at midblock, or the seven-story Fountain Square building at the south end of the block.

City officials have reportedly discussed with Tim Anderson of Focus Development the possibility of the developer providing funds to renovate the decaying city-owned fountain and plaza at the southern tip of the block as a public benefit to compensate for the substantial height requested for the tower.

Interim City Zoning Administrator Arlova Jackson said it would take about two weeks for the staff to complete the zoning analysis, and that the process of public meetings to review the plans would begin after that.

A call this morning to Mr. Anderson was not immediately returned.

The developers obtained a contract to purchase the 708 Church St. building earlier this year and word that the site was in play became public after retail and office tenants received notices from Farnsworth-Hill, Inc., the current management company, that they'd have to talk to Focus about any extension of their leases.

The building is one of more than 20 downtown structures that the city's Preservation Commission has been considering for possible addition to the list of downtown landmarks. In a report presented at the Downtown Plan Committee meeting this morning, the building was rated as for the most part being in only fair condition — a lower rating than commissioners gave to most other properties on their list.

The commissioners noted that only one of the building's 15 stores has its original storefront.

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