Developers of the proposed 49-story condominium tower on the Fountain Square block asked Evanston aldermen this evening for time to develop a new, shorter design for the project.

Developer Tim Anderson said that after getting feedback from the Plan Commission last December and the aldermen at the Planning and Development Committee meeting last week he wants to “make some adjustments” in the project.

Anderson said it was too early to say what the height of the building in the revised plans would be, because of the amount of design work required to revamp the plans.

Given strong opposition to the project from some neighborhoods in the city, it seemed unlikely the original proposal could win the votes of six of the nine aldermen required to approve it.

The developers asked that the tower project be discussed again at the committee’s Tuesday, April 8, meeting and the aldermen voted to hear the presentation on the revised plan at that time.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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8 Comments

  1. It still won’t matter
    No matter how much they change the design you will still hear the same complaints from the same people. Always the same people. The vast majority of them get the AARP magazine monthly. Older people have never liked change and never will. God forbid we change this sleepy little hamlet of Evanston into a vibrant living city with a pulse!!!

    1. Butler V. Adams
      I

      Butler V. Adams

      I agree.

      It’s almost funny. While driving through Evanston, the majority of the people who have the “Save Evanston From the Tower” signs live in big houses near the central business district which I find not only ironic but somewhat laughable. Most of these people seem to think that Evanston is or should be like Mayberry.

      1. Big Houses with Save Evanston Signs
        Laughable? Would it make sense to you only if these signs were in the windows of every Sherman Plaza condo window facing East? Are you the one distributing the signs so you know where the “majority” are located? How do you know what we, the people in big houses with save Evanston signs, really think?

        Perhaps we are concerned with the City’s economic state and business climate, the high number of vacant store fronts today, the overbuilt condo market, the inability of another condo project to finish due to lack of financing, the design and size of the proposed tower that is out of context with the rest of the City and surrounding buildings and businesses, the pressure this will put on City services such as Fire, infrastructure, and other services, the impact on displaced businesses and professionals, just to name a few things we may be thinking about.

        You haven’t done much homework on this subject it appears and you shouldn’t throw stones at people in big houses with save Evanston signs in their yards.

        1. Big Houses with Save Evanston Signs
          Butler V. Adams

          No, I’m not the one distributing the signs, but seeing as I’m not blind, I used the eyeballs in my head to determine where the signs were located during my spin through the city. I have some clue as to what the people with the signs are thinking because they stated as much along with their addresses at the planning meetings!!! I wouldn’t be surprised if the folks in Sherman Plaza had signs in there windows protesting that this tower would block the views, but seeing as no one owns there views, that argument doesn’t resonate with me.

          The over built condo market could be a concern, but I suspect that these would sell better because of their good location. Also, if the saturation of the condo market is such a concern, maybe the developer could change the proposal to rental units and convert the tower at a later date.

          Why does the design and context have to be the same. All animals don’t look alike nor do people, so why should buildings. I do believe that the current design is much better than much of the architectural crap that has been built in Evanston as of late. This will not put a lot of pressure on the fire department because we have this invention called “spriklers” that are mandated.

          Yes, businesses would be displaced by construction, but they would also be displaced by any adaptive reuse of the structure that was recommended by some people.

          I’ve done my homework.

          Furthermore, why would this tower be out of context, seeing as there are highrises already surrounding this parcel.

          This argument is mainly about people who don’t like or want change VS people who do.

          Mainly.

        2. homework
          Mr. Big House,

          You say that you are concerned about the ‘high number of vacant store fronts today’ . Well, things really don’t look too bad downtown…the old Barnes & Noble was left empty because they still had a lease. I see a few other empty spots, most notably the old Borders, but I think that things look pretty good here – with the notable exception of the Orrington Ave. stretch of the 708 Church building…

          You say that you don’t like all these empty store fronts…but the ECRD wants us to believe that we need to save the 708 Church building in order to PRESERVE retail space. Does this make sense? Can’t Williams Shoes, Fashion Tomato, and Radio Shack move into one of these vacant storefronts?

          Do we have too many, or too few , stores in Evanston? Please do your homework.

          As Mr Adams has pointed out, any remodeling of the 708 Church building will displace some people. Too bad…that’s life. If there is really such a shortage of office space in Evanston, the city should encourage a developer to build an office tower – or at least not get in their way. Or these crybaby office renters should get together and build a new office building.

          Mr. Adams is correct in pointing out the inaccuracy of your ‘fire’ claims. Modern high rises are SAFER than old buildings. Can you cite examples of anyone in Chicago being seriously injured in a fire in a modern highrise? Don’t say Cook County building…that did NOT have all the features that this tower will have. Kids and old people die in single family homes with no smoke alarms just about every month. Condos put very little strain on the infrastructure, too…and it is more than made up for by the property taxes that residents pay, and the schools make out from all these childless residents paying taxes too.

          I haven’t seen many of these signs on the west side, in front of the smaller houses. The signs tend to be north of Noyes, or near the lake.

          If this project doesn’t go through, here is what needs to be done : The owners of 708 Church should not renew any leases, or they should jack up rents when they come up for renewal. The renters have admitted that they cannot find comparable space in Evanston at such a low price..therefore, their rents must be too low. Then when the building is empty, there will be less opposition when they come forth with a new development proposal for the site.

        3. empty storefronts everywhere
          Empty storefronts? This city has a problem with empty storefronts?

          Take a look at the “Evanston News Elsewhere” section at right, and see the article about Gary Poppins closing:

          “The small size of the old Poppins location means that the new tenant will probably be another niche-market store, said Marc Magill of Family Properties Inc., the accounts manager of the company that owns the building.

          “It’s definitely good for specialty food stores,” Magill said. . “We’ve had another popcorn company ask about it, a cheese retailer and several others.”

          Magill said that nine groups have displayed interest, and a new tenant will be chosen by the end of April. The new tenant will probably open in June or July, Magill said. ”

          Nine groups have displayed interest in that little store. Nine? It doesn’t sound like empty storefronts are a problem…in the past , I have heard that landlords usually have their choice of tenants downtown, and can wait for a good one.

          Mr. Perman, you are quoted in the article, and I have seen you post on this board. If you are out there, can you tell us how the Evanston commercial real estate market is doing? Is Big House correct?

  2. Ignorance is bliss
    Perhaps it was the Medill School of Journalism that taught me to think before putting words to paper or, in this case, screen, but for those among you who think Evanston is thriving and in need of yet another large-scale building for its increasingly urban landscape, please do a little investigating and rethink your position. I do not live in a big house. I do not carry an AARP card. I am a 31-year-old who has been living here for eight years, ever since attending grad school at Northwestern. In that time, I have seen many storefronts close, including McDonald’s, Baja Fresh, Corner Bakery and Wolfgang Puck – businesses that flourish in almost every other location in the country. Regardless of why they closed, they have not returned, and I can only attribute some of that to what’s happening here economically. Just last week, a parking lot I commonly use raised its rates to 25 cents for 20 minutes. WHAT IS HAPPENING HERE? I continue to rent because I am frightened by the proliferation of condos in the area, many without tenants. I question what the future holds for any property I might purchase as we throw up more empty buildings. I have seen a lovely college town become a small city, which is fine, but I would like just one person to tell me WHY they WANT this skyscraper in Evanston, WHY they NEED Evanston to play host to the tallest building IN ANY CHICAGO SUBURB. It just makes no sense. I am all for change. I’m a journalist; we believe in change. But it is amazing to me that a town that does not allow drive-thrus might let a developer to cast a shadow over its entire downtown. Someone tell me: TO WHAT END?

    1. Answers to your questions
      I do not carry an AARP card. I am a 31-year-old who has been living here for eight years, ever since attending grad school at Northwestern. In that time, I have seen many storefronts close, including McDonald’s, Baja Fresh, Corner Bakery and Wolfgang Puck – businesses that flourish in almost every other location in the country.

      1. McDonald’s went out when the Orrington Hotel was renovated, not for lack of business. It was replaced by an upscale steakhouse, which went under, followed by a nice sushi place. I consider this to be an improvement.

      2. Concerning Baja Fresh, your claim that this business flourishes almost everywhere else is just not supported :

      “Baja Fresh, a fast casual Mexican chain Wendy’s bought in 2002, has done well in California and the East Coast, but has struggled outside of its core markets. The chain’s same-store sales, or sales from stores open at least a year, have declined all year. Baja Fresh lost $2.5 million in 2003 and is expected to lose twice that this year, Wendy’s executives told investors Oct. 22.”
      [ Columbus Business First, Wednesday, December 1, 2004, available online ]

      3. Wolfgang Puck? Did you ever eat there? It wasn’t very good. Don’t blame the city for that. A better, nicer restaurant will move into that space. {I wish that it could be IHOP, but I know it won’t be. }

      4. Corner Bakery? See the Daily Northwestern article on the closing, “Church St. plaza loses 2nd eatery”, 7/8/2004:

      “The firm is still collecting rent on the vacant spaces, leaving Church Street Plaza 100 percent leased and 96 percent occupied, which Reardon calls “incredible.” And, Reardon added, there is still high demand for space in the plaza.

      Reardon admitted that since it’s a “prime location,” spaces in Church Street Plaza are costly, requiring the business occupying it to perform strongly. ”

      Corner Bakery’s location, a prominent corner in the center of town close to the offices, near the trains, near the movies (like Wolfgang), was a very high rent spot. The fact that rent was high there was a sign of downtown’s success…you see, when an area is thriving, rents go up.

      Anyway, why do you admire these restaurants so much? They are all chains…three of them being national. I thought that we want Evanston to have unique local businesses, no? We have plenty of restaurants in Evanston, and competition in the restaurant business is always fierce. I think that Pomegranate and Blu are better than any of the places you mentioned. { I would like an IHOP, though.}

      5. “Just last week, a parking lot I commonly use raised its rates to 25 cents for 20 minutes. WHAT IS HAPPENING HERE? I”

      I consider this to be progress. The city should do what it can to maximize parking revenue, so the city can balance its budget. $1.25 per hour is negligible if you are shopping or eating downtown – if parking is too cheap, people will keep their cars there too long, making it hard for others to find a spot. It is often difficult to find a parking spot downtown. This tells me that rates are too low. Long term parkers should use the garages.

      6. ” I have seen a lovely college town become a small city, which is fine, but I would like just one person to tell me WHY they WANT this skyscraper in Evanston, WHY they NEED Evanston to play host to the tallest building IN ANY CHICAGO SUBURB”

      I will be the first person to do that:

      Why I want the skyscraper:

      a. Bringing more residents to the downtown area will be good for the city.
      b. It WILL generate tax revenue for the city. { Don’t believe ECRD projections – Bill has thoroughly debunked their short-term analysis }
      c. The current building is an eyesore, really.
      d. Most of all, it will make the anti-development people angry. I am annoyed by the way they have conducted their campaign. Like Hillary Clinton, they deserve to lose because their tactics have been so mean.

      WHY they NEED Evanston to play host to the tallest building IN ANY CHICAGO SUBURB :

      Well, it isn’t a matter of need. But really, this distinction seems meaningless. “tallest building in any Chicago suburb?”. Well, where would you expect it to be? Park Ridge? Cicero?

      Tall buildings tend to pop up in places with high real estate prices and high population density, and (in the Chicago area) lake views.

      Can you think of any suburbs that fit that description?

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