Developers and city officials unveiled plans Thursday night for a nine-story condominium and retail development at the southeast corner of Main Street and Chicago Avenue that would resolve a three-year legal dispute over the property. A neighbor takes a close-up look at a model of the project and neighboring buildings. The property’s former owner, James Flanagan, sued the city seeking to block rezoning the land from B3 to C1a, which would have reduced the maximum building height from 125 to 67 feet. Mr. Flanagan argued that he had spent nearly $5 million over several years demolishing one of the buildings on the site and planning a new development, relying on the existing B3 zoning. A circuit court judge granted him summary judgment against the city. The state court of appeals upheld the decision and the state supreme court refused to hear the city’s appeal. “So, simply put,” city attorney Herb Hill told about 75 neighbors at the community meeting at Lincoln School, “the city is stuck with the B3 zoning.” Mr. Flanagan died while the suit was pending and developers David Katz and Bob Elowson of Bernard Katz and Associates, Inc. acquired control of the property. They’ve negotiated an agreement to resolve the court suit, contingent on the city’s approval of their plans for the development. A rendering looking southeast based on a photo taken from the fifth floor of the existing 900 Chicago Ave. development across the street. As described at the meeting, the new building would be 99 feet tall, with ground-floor retail, two levels of parking and six floors of condominiums above that. The developers’ attorney, David Reifman, said the developers have agreed to provide larger setbacks from the streets than required under B3 zoning in return for reducing the setback on the south side of the property from 10 to six feet. He said the building would have 71 units, compared to the 76 units allowed under B3 zoning and will have 131 parking spaces, nine more than what the zoning requires. The developers are seeking an increase in the permitted floor area ratio from 3.0 to 3.51. Mr. Reifman said that would increase the average size of the units to 1,375 square feet, which would make it more likely buyers would become long-term residents of the community. Mr. Katz said the building would have 23 one bedroom units, some with a den, ranging from 945 to 1100 square feet and priced from about $280,000 to $350,000. He said the other 48 units would have two bedrooms. They would range in size from 1,250 to 1,600 square feet and be priced from about $380,000 to $550,000. The architect’s model of the project and neighboring buildings. Alderman Melissa Wynne said the developers have agreed to contribute $1,300 per unit to the city’s affordable housing fund, the average of the per-unit contribution for the four most-recently approved planned developments in town. The project would have 9,290 square feet of retail space. Mr. Katz said he expects that a bank branch will be one tenant and that the remainder of the retail space could house from one to three additional tenants. He said it’s unlikely that a restaurant would be among the tenants. Neighbors voiced concerns about traffic congestion and noise during construction and a variety of other issues, but seemed generally to sense that, given the legal status of the project, the compromise seemed reasonable. The building would be 6 feet shorter than the building on the northeast corner of the intersection. Architect John Clark of Cordogan, Clark & Associates, Inc., said the building’s design, featuring a buff color brick with blue tile accents, was intended to “create something that looks like it’s been there.” The design includes a landscaped courtyard atop the third floor. The project is schedule for review by the Planning and Development Committee at its Nov. 27 meeting and could receive final City Council approval as early as Dec. 11. The developer said that if the approval and permitting process goes smoothly, the building could be ready for occupancy before the end of 2008.
Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now. More by Bill Smith