Analyst: Tower could succeed in recovering market

The developer's rendering of the planned 708 Church St. tower, the silver building at center, superimposed on an aerial view of the Evanston, and Chicago, skyline.

Gail Lissner, a vice president at Chicago-based Appraisal Research Counselors, says the planned 708 Church St. condo tower in Evanston has a good chance of success as the real estate market continues to recover -- if Evanston aldermen approve a requested three-year deadline extension to start construction.

Lissner, whose firm produces quarterly reports on the state of the Chicago and suburban apartment and condo markets, says there's no surplus of new condo inventory left in Evanston, with only one building -- One Evanston, the former Winthrop Club, at 1570 Elmwood Ave. -- still marketing new units to individual buyers.

Several other condo developments caught in the market downturn that started in 2007 have been converted to rental properties -- including 525 Kedzie St., whose purchase by a firm controlled by basketball legend Isiah Thomas was announced earlier this month.

Unsold units at another development -- Grand Bend at Green Bay -- showed up in a new listing Tuesday. Bluewater Group Inc. paid $6.75 million for 38 of the units after a bank foreclosed on the developer.

Now, after 12 more of the 49 units in the building have sold, the new listing seeks $7.78 million for the remaining 26 in a bulk sale.

That move may have been encouraged by the reported record price received for the new eight-story 1717 Ridge Ave. development just a block away in September.

Lissner says the 708 Church site is "a really premium location for downtown Evanston."

"Anytime you have a market downturn like we've had, it's the best sites that are impacted last and recover first."

The proposed 218-unit tower "is quite a sizable project, but it's the type of site that warrants that type of development.," she added.

If you look three years back from today to 2010, Lissner said, we've seen a lot of improvement, so I think a three year window from today is still a fairly long time frame to kind of ride out the market recovery to the point where it would justify" a 200-unit-plus project.

"The size of that project is too large for where we are in the recovery now, but it could be very different soon," Lissner said. "We're not sitting with some large overhang of vacant units in Evanston."

The City Council is scheduled to consider the deadline extension Monday.

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Related document

The revised 708 Church St. proposal from 2009

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