The Plan Commission Wednesday started redrawing the map of downtown to downscale Evanston’s future.

The commissioners agreed to make the following changes in maximum zoning heights proposed in the draft downtown plan developed by city consultants:

  • Reduce from 10 stories to 8 stories the maximum height permitted in the half-block wide strip just east of Ridge Avenue from the alley north of Church Street south to Grove Street. The lower height matches existing zoning limits for the area.
  • Reduce from 10 stories to 8 stories the maximum height permitted in the half-block wide strip just west of Hinman Avenue from Church to Grove, except for the properties at the corner of Davis Street.

No property owners affected by the first change were at the meeting, but two residents of buildings along Hinman Avenue praised the change there, because the proposed new zone would also bar addition of ground floor retail uses on land that currently is entirely mid-rise residential.

The commissioners also decided to:

  • Reduce from 18 stories to 8 stories the maximum height permitted for the Northwestern University-owned property at 1725 Orrington Ave., a former women’s dormitory now known as the McManus Living-Learning Center.

The commissioners also appeared to be close to agreement to reduce the maximum height in the core area of downtown — a roughly triangular area running from east of the Metra tracks generally to Sherman Avenue and from University Place south to Grove Street — from 30 stories to 275 feet, or roughly 25 stories.

But at that point the commission’s discussion became so heated that observers were uncertain whether agreement had been reached or whether that decision, along with several others, were to be left for further discussion later.

As the meeting ended, Commissioner Sharon Bowie, attending the final commission session of her term, said, “It’s been enjoyable working with you, and I’m glad my time is up.”

The commission is scheduled to resume its downtown plan discussion at 7 p.m. on April 9.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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