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Residents react to tower plan

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."

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