Evanston’s Plan Commission voted 5-3 Wednesday to trim the proposed height limit on the Fountain Square block downtown.

The deeply split panel voted on wildly varying height limits for the block — ranging from five to forty-two stories, but deadlocked 4-4 on the other options.

They did unanimously reject the idea that the entire block should be designated open space. 

Plan Commission Chair James Woods said the new height limit for the block would be the same as what the Commission approved for surrounding core areas — a maximum of 275 feet.

That would keep structures on the Fountain Square block just under the height of Evanston’s tallest existing buildings — the 277-foot Chase Bank Tower and the 276-foot Sherman Plaza development — which flank the Fountain Square block to the east and west.

So, in the debate between the “wedding cake” approach to the downtown skyline advocated by some commissioners, in which height limits would rise to a peak at the center, and the “fallen souffle” favored by others who wanted to preserve the current low-rise look of the block, the only approach that could draw a majority vote was splitting the difference.

The commission appeared to finish action on the downtown plan Wednesday, but scheduled another meeting for Sept. 10 to take one more look at it before sending it on to the City Council’s Planning and Development Committee.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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