Plans to bring a restaurant to the 1800 block of Simpson Street in Evanston suffered another setback Wednesday when a city staff committee concluded that the latest design for the building didn’t look urban enough for Evanston.
Community Development Director Johanna Leonard said the mostly wood design “doesn’t look like other buildings in Evanston that are commercial.”
She suggested an all or mostly brick design instead.
Scott Mangum, the city’s zoning administrator, suggested the design had “a Cape Cod-type look — not authentically Evanston.”
Arkady Kats, the project’s developer, said the design did include brick at the base of the building, below the windows, and complained that an all brick design would “just look like a brick box.”
But he agreed to return to the committee, most likely in two weeks, with revised designs.
1829 Simpson after the February windstorm.
The site previously had a brick storefront building, which remained vacant for years after neighbors persuaded the city to rezone the site at the edge of Twiggs Park from business to residential use.
Kats last year won approval from the city to change the zoning back to permit a restaurant use and had started renovating the building before it collapsed in a windstorm on Feb. 25.
A small group of neighbors who opposed that zoning change have continued to vocally oppose the restaurant plans.
At Wednesday’s meeting, after complaining that he couldn’t understand Kats’ Eastern European accent, Albert Gibbs, who said he’s lived at 1816 Dodge Ave. all his life, told the committee, “We don’t need what he brings. This is coming from somewhere else with no concern about what people in the immediate area want.”
“What would he really care about what anybody who looks like me wants,” Gibbs shouted.
At one point the discussion got so heated that Leonard had to threaten to adjourn the meeting and reminded the neighbors that the issues they were attempting to raise were outside the purview of the Design and Project Review Committee.