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Roszak reshapes Sienna plans

Developer Tom Roszak told Evanston officials today he wants to build a hotel and rental apartments instead of two more condo buildings at his Sienna planned development site downtown.

Roszak blamed the slow market for condo sales for the change of plans

All four buildings in the Sienna development, bounded by Ridge Avenue, Clark Street, Oak Avenue and the alley north of Church Street, were approved as eight-story condo structures.

Roszak says the first building is fully occupied and the second is nearing completion, with first move-ins expected next month. He says about 55 percent of the units in the second building are sold, and he expects it will take until the middle of next year to sell the rest.

Because of the slow sales, Roszak added, he’s not met the pre-sales commitments set by lenders to begin work on the third phase of the development.

He said the hotel and apartment projects don’t have such requirements, and he’d be able to start work on them quickly, assuming the City Council approves the changes to the project’s planned development ordinance.

He said he’s working with the Starwood Hotels organization to obtain a franchise for the hotel under Starwood’s new Aloft brand, which is scheduled to see its first locations open in mid-2008, including one near O’Hare Airport.

The hotel would be built on the northwest corner of the Sienna site, at the intersection of Ridge and Clark.

In addition to the hotel, Roszak’s company would retain ownership of the apartment building, where, he said, units will rent for about $2 per square foot per month.

He said Starwood’s standards for its prototype hotel buildings required increasing the hotel’s height to nine stories in order to keep it within the basic footprint of the approved site. He said he’s proposing to reduce the height of the apartment building to seven stories to compensate for that change.

With slightly higher floor-to-ceiling heights, the hotel would end up being 13 feet taller than the existing Sienna condo buildings.

He said the 111-room hotel would be built using the same materials and design elements to blend with the existing buildings, but that the hotel will be narrower, and setback further from Ridge Avenue, because the hotel rooms have less depth than condo units.

The plan also would add a curb cut on Clark Street to provide easy access for hotel guests to the property.

Hotel guests would share the development’s garage with the condo and apartment dwellers, and access will be controlled by key cards, he said. The hotel would have its own pool, separate from the one for condo owners.

Roszak said owners of the condo units "are very positive" about the hotel plan.

The hotel, described as a "select service" property, would have a bar and an area where guests could purchase prepared foods, but no restaurant service or meeting room facilities.

Roszak told the Site Plan and Appearance Review Committee that the change in plans would provide several public benefits to the city — including taxes on hotel room charges and 30 to 35 new jobs at the hotel.

In addition, he said, the change will allow him to complete the Sienna project, begun in 2004, in a timely fashion, "instead of sitting there for who knows how many years with an open hole on the west side of the development site."

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