An Evanston city staff committee has recommended approval of plans to replace the hole in the ground left by the unfinished Sienna condominium complex with a new rental apartment building.

The project, announced earlier this month by Northfield-based Focus Development, would substitute a single 174-unit rental building for the final two condominum structures initially planned at the Sienna site in the 1700 block of Ridge Avenue.

Walter Hallen, who chairs the city’s Site Plan and Appearance Review Committee, said the new design matches the materials used in the the two Sienna buildings that were completed several years ago and that front on Oak Avenue.

But the new plan increases the number of units allowed by 29 and reduces the number of parking spaces by 11.

Hallen said the rental units will be smaller than similar units in a condo development, because “people will rent a smaller unit than what they would buy.” That means the total floor area covered by the project will be the same, despite the increase in the number of units.

Architect George Halik said the main entrances to the underground parking for the new building will be off Clark Street, but because of the slope of the site a few parking stalls will be entered from the alley at the south end of the property.

Top: Architect George Halik shows the committee a rendering of the new building looking southeast from the corner of Ridge and Clark. Above: A drawing of how the new building, on the left, will relate to the two existing Sienna condo buildings.

Halik said pedestrians will enter the new 1717 Ridge Ave. building from Ridge and there will be a dropoff zone there for cars as well.

The eight-story building will have a plaza area on the second floor and building amenities, including a swimming pool, cyber cafe and fitness center, will be on the third level.

Residents of the condominum development will also have access to the pool.

The plans now go to the City Council’s Planning and Development Committee, and the modifications requested to the original Sienna planned development ordinance will eventually require a vote by the full City Council.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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    1. You enjoy looking at a hole filled with rancid water?

      Perhaps the longstanding eyesore (and dangerous hole) will be history some time soon.

  1. Decent development, but street mods are needed

    This looks like a good project–particularly having a pedestrian access on Ridge.

    If you look at this in context of the pedestrian enhancements recently announced at Emerson and Green Bay, it becomes clear that this section of Ridge/Greenbay from Emerson to Church needs to be modified to make a better pedestrian environment.

    I propose that this section of Ridge be restricted to two lanes of car traffic and put in protected bike lanes on both sides of the street.

    This will immediately help minimize the Emerson/Green Bay/Ridge hazard by offering a north-south corridor for bikes that can connect Emerson with Church St. and Downtown.

    This will also pave the way for a better design on Ridge going both north and south from this block, allowing more mobility options.

  2. While the building looks

    While the building looks fine, have we done a thorough study on the number of current empty units already in Evanston? Look at the number of high rise condos that are empty or have moved to rentals. The 'if you build it they will come' mentality has not proven to be effective.

  3. U completely miss the point

    "have we done a thorough study on the number of current empty units already in Evanston?"

    That is NOT the City's role in determining development projects. If an entrepreneur creates a plan, develops a proposal, and wants to risk their capital it's THEIR decision. They bear the risk and reap the reward. The role of the city is to determine if this proposal is consistent with current guidelines, regulations and zoning.

    The concept of central planning as espoused by the former Soviet Union, Cuba and North Korea should serve as examples of what Evanston government should not do.


    1. If this were the case

      If this were the case, and it probably should be, then Tilted Kilt would have been approved. The restaurant made all of the legal requirements for a restaurant, but was considered 'morally unacceptable'. You can't have it both ways, for retail, we will allow an inordinate amount of empty space in this city because of misplaced moral judgment, but then let any developer put up whatever they want for housing? Enough developers have gone bankrupt now from poorly planed developments in this city.

    2. I couldn’t agree more

      I couldn't agree more. The person who stands to make money on it, not tax payers should foot the bill

  4. I propose that NO bikes be

    I propose that NO bikes be allowed on Green Bay/Ridge Road.  Traffic is fast enough at the rush hours the way it is.  We do NOT need the added arrogance of cyclists demanding that they be allowed to break the rules of the road.

    A way for Evanston to increase the money in its coffers is to ticket every cyclist that runs a stop sign, traffic light, etc … and more.  Especially the cyclists who endanger their children's lives.  I feel that cyclists should be fined at a much higher rate than vehicle drivers simply because of their arrogance.

    1. Our city will be rich!

      Ah, an arrogance tax. Even more lucrative for Evanston than the plastic bag tax.

    2. Arrogance typified!

      Is this satire?!? The "arrogance of cyclists"? To want to continue restrictions on transportation options seems the epitome of arrogance.

  5. The Sienna Project and Traffic on Ridge Avenue

    Because of the access to the train stations, I'm sure that this project will easily fill with tenants. I don't agree with  the respondents who question the need for this project. Evanston is an excellent location for train commuters. Although I regret that we are not getting a lower density project here, the project is realistic for the neighborhood and for the needs of Chicagoland citizens. 

    But what is really wrong with this neighborhood, and it may not be up to the builders at 1719 Ridge to solve the problem, is that both pedestrians and cyclists are an afterthought. Much of Green Bay Avenue north of Emerson does not even have sidewalks.

    Why must we put up with having Ridge Avenue be a four lane highway? It lacks sufficient right-of-way for four lines. The intersections of Ridge with Emerson, Church, and Davis have been the sites of many vehicle accidents in time that I have lived in this neighborhood. It is only a matter of time before there is a pedestrian death. 

    Between Emerson and Church, both sides of Ridge Avenue are now lined with dense residential construction, and this project only adds to that situation. Yet there is no pedestrian crossing and no pedestrian bridge. The expectation is that pedestrians should walk either south to Church or north to Emerson to cross Ridge Avenue. The pedestrian crossing at Emerson is terrible, and extremely dangerous. Crossing in the mid-block areas between Emerson and Church is even worse. Furthermore, the sidewalks all along Ridge Avenue are too narrow.

    Evanston Township High School is less than a half mile away. We can't expect that children are always going to walk to crosswalks. What we really need is a pedestrian bridge. If only it could be incorporated architecturally into this project. 

    I'm sorry for the attitude of the driver who is so angry with cyclists. Perhaps this driver does not realize that there is no other way to get from Asbury or Ridge and Emerson to the area north of the McCormack Canal, where the Green Bay bike trail begins. The Green Bay bike trail is almost continuous all the way from north Evanston to the Wisconsin border. Once a bicyclist is south of Evanston, the City of Chicago has excellent bike access all the way south to the Loop and beyond. I regularly commute by bicycle in warm weather. 

    Unfortunately, the City of Evanston is a the largest gap in the an otherwise excellent network of bicycle lanes and trails that extends from Wisconsin to Indiana. And sadly, projects like this one have been added to downtown Evanston without saving a corridor for bike access. 

    Our neighborhood should not put up with being a thoroughfare. We should turn Ridge Avenue south of Emerson into a two lane road, with bike lines and a more generous sidewalk on both sides. And let's slow the traffic down to 25 miles per hour. Yes, this will choke traffic on Green Bay. That's the whole point. We need to get those people out of their cars. And let's keep them off Asbury as well. We have an excellent alternative, the Metra Train! Let them take the train, like we do!

    Your neighbor at Garden Ridge Condominiums in Evanston. 

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