Despite complaints from some neighbors, aldermen Monday voted to give a developer two more years to start a Central Street condo project.
Developer Jack Crocker told the Planning and Development Committee, “This market is virually dead.”
He said he anticipates it will take about two years for the real estate market to work through the current oversupply of condo units.
The Central Street project, Eastwood of Evanston, was approved in March 2007 as a four-story, 51-unit condo project with ground floor retail uses on what was then the site of the Evanston Theater building at 1700-1722 Central St.
Early this year the developer’s asked for a one year extention. With the new delay granted Monday, the developers now will have until April 5, 2011 to get building permits and a year beyond that to complete the project.
Crocker said traffic has been very slow at another project he’s involved with, the Prairie Central development a few blocks to the west.
He said only four of 14 units in that building have been sold.
“In the $450,000 to $800,000 price range in Evanston only about seven condo units went under contract from June through September,” Crocker said.
“Fortunately at our project we had three,” he added, “but that is remarkably low for Evanston. It just indicates the market has virtually stalled.”
Jim Hughes of 2518 Hartzell Ave., a director of the Central Street Neighbors Association, complained that the delay means the city will lose property tax revenue.
The CSNA’s treasurer, Joe Hill, suggested that if the project can’t start soon, the city should buy the property and turn it into a park.
And John Zbesko of 1120 Noyes St., who’s circulating petitions to run for 7th Ward Alderman, said there’s no guarantee that the project will be built even if the two year extension is granted.
Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, responded that a city decision to buy the property would be a sure way to guarantee the site never generates any property tax revenue.
“Until we start nationalizing property,” Rainey said, “if a owner wants to keep property vacant forever, that’s their right. But, how stupid that would be. I’m sure they don’t want to delay the project. I believe Mr. Crocker when he says he wants to build it as soon as he possibly can.”
Alderman Edmund Moran, 6th Ward, said, “The economy is hurting right now and is hurting badly. But Evanston will rebound and be back at it some day.” He said he agreed that it’s likely to take two years for the economy to revive.