Fountain Square tower

The plan for what would be suburban Chicago’s tallest building will go under review by Evanston’s Plan Commission next month.

The developers of Sherman Plaza unveiled in April plans for a 49-story condo tower on the site of the two-story 708 Church St. building.

Developers Tim Anderson and James Klutznick say the new building would have two floors of retail and three levels of parking at the base.

The developers are scheduled to make an informal presentation of their plans at a community meeting at the Civic Center at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 1.

The Plan Commission will start it’s formal review of the proposal a week later on Aug. 8. 

The developers propose that the city use incremental tax revenue from the tower to pay for acquisition of the seven-story Fountain Square building at the south end of the block and redeveloping that site with an expanded plaza and a smaller retail building that likely would house a restaurant.

The landmarked three-story Hahn building at mid-block would be untouched by the development proposal.

The current incarnation of the Fountain Square plaza was built as a bicentennial project in the 1970s and now suffers from decaying masonry and broken fountains. The City Council voted last month to spend an estimated $224,000 to fix it up.

Mr. Anderson said that when the developers met with the City Council in executive session earlier this year to discuss the implications of the project for the city-owned plaza, the aldermen indicated they wanted the city to be in charge of building a new plaza.

“This can be the financial engine to support acquisition of the Fountain Square building to expand the plaza and make an outdoor living room for downtown Evanston,” Mr. Anderson said.

A controversy over the executive session has led to charges that the meeting violated the state’s open meetings law.

Mr. Anderson said the same tax increment financing district covers both Sherman Plaza and the Fountain Square block. “That TIF ends in 2018. This project would probably be up by 2010 or so. That means there’s only eight years of increment revenue available. So if the city waits five years to do this, the increment won’t be there to do Fountain Square. There’s just a short window of opportunity,” he added.

When they announced the project, the developers said they hoped the Plan Commission would start reviewing it in June and that they’d be able to start construction late next year.

Evanston developer Robert Horner this month withdrew his plans for a second condo tower on the same block citing community opposition as one of the reasons for his decision.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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