The Oakton Street building once used as Evanston’s recycling center would get a 60-foot tall addition under plans discussed at the city’s Design and Project Review Committee meeting Wednesday.

Andy Stein.

Andy Stein, of Clark Street Real Estate, which has an agreement to purchase the site from the city, said its proposed tenant, First Ascent Climbing, wants the new space to be able to offer rope climbing options that the existing building doesn’t have enough height to provide.

The main area of the existing recycling building would feature boulder climbing and provide space for yoga and exercise classes.

City staff raised some concerns about the appearance of the corrugated metal panels planned to provide the exterior surface of the addition, but raised more objections to plans in the design to continue to use a secondary exit from the property.

A diagram showing the proposed parking lot with entrances and exits.

Stein said the additional exit at the east end of the site would provide a more convenient traffic flow through the parking lot and add drop-off spaces for parents taking children to the center and for users of ride share services, as well as increasing the total parking spaces available in the lot.

But City Engineer Lora Biggs said the extra exit would thwart city efforts to simplify traffic patterns on Oakton Street to improve pedestrian safety and pose a threat to people crossing Oakton to enter the adjacent James Park.

Community Development Director Johanna Leonard said the developers needed to think about what public benefits the project could provide — perhaps providing water connections or sheds for users of the community gardens just south of the building.

Alderman Ann Rainey, whose 8th Ward includes the site, asked Stein, “Why didn’t you tell us about the six story addition at the outset” of discussions with the city. She suggested the “extraordinary” addition might not be looked on favorably by residentes.

The “concept review” session Wednesday did not lead to a vote by the committee. The developers are expected to return for another committee meeting early next year to present more detailed plans for the project at which time the committee will vote on the plans..

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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