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Plan Commission hears proposal for loft condos on west side

The Plan Commission is scheduled to hold a second hearing next Wednesday on a proposal to turn a vacant industrial building at 2100 Greenwood Ave. into 26 live-work condominiums.

Architect and co-developer Stephen Yas told the commission last night that while the project is located in the new West Evanston Tax Increment Financing District, the developers are not seeking any funding from the TIF.
“We’ll just be contributing tax revenue to it,” Mr. Yas said, projecting that the project will generate more than $5 million in additional tax revenue over the 23-year life of the TIF district.
He said that because all the lofts will be one-bedroom units, he anticipates the project will not add students to local schools.
The developers seek to have the property’s zoning changed from general industrial to transitional manufacturing to permit the residential use.
The existing International style factory building covers almost the entire lot. The developers plan to reduce the lot coverage to 84 percent by removing portions of the roof and creating landscaped courtyards in the newly-opened space.
But they’ll need a variation to do that, because the proposed new zoning calls for a maximum 41 percent lot coverage.
The developers are also seeking a maximum building height of 45 feet, four feet more than allowed under the zoning, to provide elevator access for handicapped residents to planned roof decks.
Mr. Yas said the building was constructed in 1951 for the Main Steel Polishing Company and once had a rail spur track running into it.
He said the developers plan to preserve at least some of the large cranes used to move steel around the factory and anticipate that future artist-residents might use them to move works of sculpture.
Mr. Yas says the developers hired neighborhood residents to do demolition work at the site and plan to hire more local residents to work on the construction project.
He’s also teaching a weekly architecture class for Evanston Township High School students at the site and has made the building available to the Evanston Fire Department for training exercises.
Mr. Yas said he’s consulted extensively with community residents about the design of the project. He said the surrounding residential neighborhood is “extremely well kept” and that he’s met as many as four generations of the same family at neighborhood meetings.
He said that at the suggestion of neighbors, the developers plan to used recessed balconies in the project so that activity on the balconies will be less visible to the neighbors.
The project will include 32 parking spaces inside the building. By contrast, Mr. Yas said, when the factory was operating, its 40 to 50 employees all parked on the street.
In an interview, Mr. Yas said he believes the project will “really get the development ball rolling” on the west side and that it should be possible to revitalize the area “without gentrifying it, as has happened downtown.”
He said the developers plan to sell the one-bedroom, 1,500 square foot condo units for about $300,000 each – or roughly $200 per square foot.
County records show the developers bought the property in September for $1.4 million.
Plan Commission members seemed favorably disposed to the project after last week’s session. Associate member Steve Samson told the Economic Development Committee meeting the same night that he thought the project was “very impressive.”

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