Chase: No drive-thru, no office tower

A rendering of the proposed new office tower at 601 Davis, shown to the right of Evanston's first skyscraper, the 1603 Orrington building.

Chase Bank, which owns much of the land proposed for a new office tower in downtown Evanston, won't allow the project to move forward if it doesn't include a new drive-thru for the bank.

The inclusion of the drive-thru was a major factor in a negative recommendation from city staff for a previous development plan for the site.

That proposal, for a 33-story apartment building that would have become the city's tallest building, ultimately was rejected by the City Council's Planning and Development Committee in January 2018 on a 6-1 vote. Aldermen appeared to be concerned mostly about the building's height and the limited parking it would have provided.

The new plans call for a 232-foot tall building with 18 total floors. There'd be retail and the bank drive-thru on the ground floor, 40 parking spaces on the second floor and 16 floors of offices above that with a total of just over 192,000 leaseable square feet of office space..


A ground-level view of the proposed building, showing the drive-thru entrance crossing the bike lane.

As with the plan rejected last year, the new proposal would maintain the landmark two-story University Building at the corner of Davis and Chicago Avenue.

City staff had objected to the drive-thru arguing that cars would have to cross a bike lane to enter, as they do at the existing drive-thru on the site, and then would exit into a busy alley. They also argued that with the growth of online banking, the drive-thru was likely to eventually become obsolete.


A diagram showing the current plan's first-floor layout, including the drive-thru.

In a letter to developer Vermilion Enterprises, LLC included in Vermilion's latest planned development submission to the city, a Chase official says, "In order for Chase to consider any sale or development of the property, the active maintenance of at least one lane of the drive-thru is an absolute requirement."

The letter goes on to say that usage of the bank's drive through facilities has "increased during recent years."

The 40 parking spaces proposed in the design is just under a tenth of the number city staff says the zoning code requires for such a building, but the developer does propose an unusually large bike storage room, with space to store 150 bicycles.

A parking study prepared for the developers by KLOA, Inc. concludes that because the development is in a transit-oriented district with two commuter rail lines and several bus lines along with car and bike sharing services nearby and more than 4,000 parking spaces available in nearby public and private garages, the parking provided by the proposed development should be sufficient.

A market analysis prepared by a consultant for the developer says the office vacancy rate in Evanston as of late last year was 7 percent with average asking rent for Class A ofifce space at $38.05 per square foot. It says the lack of new office construction in Evanston "has kept vacancy rates low while pushing rental rates up."

Johanna Nyden, the city's community development director, said this morning that the formal public review process for the proposal is likely to get underway sometime after the July 4th holiday.

Assuming the project is approved by this September, the developer anticipates completing construction by August of 2021.

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