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Planners hit looks of Central Place condos

Evanston’s Plan Commission is expected to vote on the proposed condominium development at the Evanston Theater site on Central Street at a special meeting Nov. 29 after wrapping up public testimony on the project Wednesday night.

Evanston’s Plan Commission is expected to vote on the proposed condominium development at the Evanston Theater site on Central Street at a special meeting Nov. 29 after wrapping up public testimony on the project Wednesday night.

Several commissioners expressed disappointment with the redesign of the Central Place Residences project, which lowered its height from five to four stories.

“The changes address many of the issues that we called for improvement on,” Commissioner Alice Rebechini said, “but the architecture has headed in a sad direction. It’s lost the really gracious quality that it had before.”

“The physical form of the building and the length is not the problem,” she added, “it’s the surface treatment.”

Commissioner Douglas Doetsch said the new design “is responsive to the concerns raised by neighbors, but the architecture before was so much better than this — we really have dumbed down the project considerably with this.”

Mr. Doetsch said he was also concerned about the width of the alley in the 1700 block of Central Street — an issue that drew many complaints from neighbors at the hearing.

The alley now is about 13.5 feet wide and the developer has proposed to add an 18 inch setback along the rear of the building.

Increasing the setback would conflict with the developer’s effort to address two other issues raised by the neighbors — making the retail shops at the front of the first floor deeper, and increasing amount of parking in the garage behind the storefronts.

Commissioner Doetsch said he wasn’t persuaded by neighbors’ complaints about traffic, parking or density around the site. “I’ve driven in the area a lot,” he said, “and I’m satisfied that there is not a traffic or parking or density issue.”

Commission Chairman Albert Hunter said, “Usually we have developers presenting much more detail in their proposals. I have the sense we’re being asked to buy a concept here.”

Commissioner Rebechini said she’d like to see actual samples of the brick to be used and the specific colors of all facade materials.

Commissioner Larry Widmayer said of the design, “The first time you brought us a luxury car, then you designed a Taurus. You’ve got to bring it back a little toward the luxury car again.”

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