Everything from wind to bike parking was on the minds of Evanston residents who showed up for a Site Plan and Appearance Review Committee meeting this afternoon about the 49-story tower planned for the Fountain Square block.

Everything from wind to bike parking was on the minds of Evanston residents who showed up for a Site Plan and Appearance Review Committee meeting this afternoon about the 49-story tower planned for the Fountain Square block.

Leonard Evens, who lives across from Fountain Square in the Optima Towers building, said the Chase Bank building and Sherman Plaza have created a severe wind problem, so bad, he said, that a open-air dance program on the bank plaza had to be moved to a less windy location.

He urged that the developers of the new tower be required to conduct wind studies to demonstrate it won’t aggravate the existing problems.

Bob Mark of 1126 Judson Ave., who works downtown, said he wanted to know more about how environmentally

friendly the new tower would be — whether it would qualify for LEED certification.

Justin Pelej, project manager for Focus Development, said the developers hope to qualify for the national certification program but haven’t worked out details of their approach to that yet.

Fred Schneider, who said he lives in northwest Evanston, challenged the idea that because the site is at the center of downtown it should have the greatest height and highest density in the city.

“I like good design, and I like this design,” he said, “but I question whether that little island has to be the biggest block in town.”

George Halik, an architect on the project who’s an Evanston resident and former member of the Evanston Preservation Commission, responded that “It’s a classic notion that cities build up in density and height at the center.”

He said that in studying models of Evanston’s downtown the design team became convinced that “there’s sort of a void right in the center now, between Sherman Plaza and the Chase Building that make it the perfect place for a tall building.”

Carol Bild of 1404 Lincoln St., a real estate agent, asked what the cost per square foot of the new condos would be.

Mr. Pelej said it was premature to talk about that, with the start of sales at least a year away, but that they want the pricing to be realistic. “There’s no advantage to us to over price it,” he said.

Mary Rosinski of 1729 Chancellor St., another real estate agent, objected to the developers’ decision to not include parking for the retail shops in the project. She said she frequently has to park near the top floor of the Sherman Plaza garage when she comes downtown late in the morning and suggested the new project would worsen that situation.

Mr. Pelig noted that the existing shops and office on the site don’t provide off-street parking and said that if the city were to expand the Fountain Square plaza as the developers have suggested, by tearing down the Fountain Square building, the total retail and office parking demand on the block would be substantially reduced.

Robert Janes of 802 Colfax St. said he was concerned that access to the new building would be difficult for persons approaching from the north or west, because it’s surrounded by one-way streets and the only entrance to the parking garage would be on northbound Orrington Avenue.

Norbert Budde of 1108 South Blvd., a member of the Evanston Bicycle Club, asked whether the new building would provide convenient bike parking for residents to encourage them to bicycle around the community.

Tim Anderson of Focus Development said his firm provided storage for 1.5 bicycles per unit at Sherman Plaza, “with access right off the freight elevator and a door out to the street by the loading dock.”

“We realized we didn’t put enough bike storage at Church Street Station, Mr. Anderson said, “So we greatly increased it for Sherman Plaza.”

“We’re going to want to look at the usage at Sherman Plaza, once all the units have closed, and be sure we create enough bike parking in the new project to meet the market demand.”

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. This resident supports the idea of a 49 story building downtown
    I’m very excited about this proposal, and I think the general concept is on target, but it does need a few tweaks. As Bob Mark suggested, it should be LEED certified for starters, but in order to get that LEED certification the city has to be willing to give up on some other items. (i.e. height, rezoning, parking ratios, setbacks, FAR, etc.) Attaining the LEED status should be part of those negotiations. Second, the architecture needs to be more beautiful and less boring. This building will be the centerpiece of the city, and it should be designed as a focal point. It’s difficult to tell from the illustrations I’ve seen if this “glass box” design can accomplish that goal, though I have confidence that Booth Hansen can design something a little more exciting than this. Third, the redesign of Fountain Square should be a part of the proposal and should be a cohesive design with the building design. Regardless of who’s paying for the plaza, the design needs to be thought of in conjunction with the architecture and not as a separate entity. I’m not concerned much about sun and wind impacts (this building has a slim profile compared to others), the height of the building, the access from one-way streets, traffic or the perceived lack of parking. . . .

    Thanks for reading my comments.

    1. Giving away the store for LEEDS
      The proposed tower/finger should not be another case of further emasculation of our already compromised zoning code.

      The developer should buy the Rothschild building not the city.

      We need another TIF like a hole in the head. How many of the extant TIFs are actually paying off?

      Why have we not seen street view perspectives of the proposal.

      Last, the little detail of fire fighting. Our current capability is limited to five stories. Beyond that the only protection is fire suppression: sprinklers, building materials, etc. This applies to recent buildings as well. Any moderately intelligent terrorist would cripple the water supply at the same time they attacked any of those buildings.


  2. why do people want this??
    I’ll declare my bias straight out – I don’t want this tower to be built. I think all of these new developments have changed the face of Evanston enough recently. I think we need to wait a couple of years and see how the recent projects are affecting traffic, parking, property values, taxes, retailers/groceries, and the general quality of life that residents in Evanston greatly care about. Does anyone know about sales rates for the recently finished and currently under construction developments? Given the slow down in real estate right now, are there even enough people to buy all of the currently available new units, let alone to justify building this beast? I understand the desire to add to our tax base, etc. but not to the point where it could totally destroy the reasons that many people want to live in Evanston in the first place.

    1. who wants the finger?
      The people who want this tower are the developers and the Council, still entranced with the concept of development as an end all to budget problemss, pension shortfalls, etc. Their favorite antidote is to swallow a big dose of TIFs (Tax Increment Foibles).

      We have at least six TIFs and I have yet to see my taxes go down. The money from the TIF, at least what does not go to the developer, is usually sidetracked for 23 years before it does anything for us mere citizens. The schools usually do not get any incremental money. If the Civic Center is sold to a developer the schools get nothing.

      Become a developer and then you will understand.

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