Developer Tim Anderson says the proposed Fountain Square tower could be made to fit the 708 Church St. site under the 385-foot height limit approved for the block last week by the City Council’s Planning and Development Committee.

But Anderson told Chicago Tribune architecture critic Blair Kamin that financing the project isn’t possible in today’s economic climate.

Anderson says he expects it will be sometime next year before the market for residential condos in places like Evanston improves enough to gain bank financing to build the tower.

The Fountain Square project has been tabled by the City Council since last May, pending final adoption by the City Council of the downtown plan, which would establish new height limits for the area.

The original tower proposal called for a 49-story building, which the developers reduced to 38-stories under pressure from project opponents.

It might need to be trimmed a bit more to fit under the limit the council committee approved last week.

Anderson said now “is a good time to get the zoning approvals done and be poised and ready when the market returns.”

One uncertainty is whether the council will act on the tower project before or after city elections in April.

Despite the preliminary adoption by aldermen of the new height limit on a 6-2 vote, it’s unclear whether the tower project has enough support among the current aldermen to win approval. At least four, and possibly as many as six new faces will be on the nine-member council after the election.

Related story

Aldermen back 385-foot height limit

Fountain Square project tabled

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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23 Comments

  1. Downtown Evanston Development
    The concerns I have with another condo tower in downtown Evanston relate more to it being condo’s rather than height. Downtown is becoming increasingly dense with residents.

    Presumably, residents will appreciate the proximity to public transportation, but will still want to own a car and need to park it somewhere. If the parking situation gets any worse than it already is, Evanston risks having a downtown that is only available to the people that live or walk there, cutting it off from the rest of the city. An office and/or other commercial building would attract workers who could use public transportation and leave their cars at home somewhere else. If Evanston is a great place to live, it should also be a great place to work. Finally, a cost-benefit analysis can be applied to types of development. A new tower would result in increased property tax revenue, but condo residents require city services too, so the net gain from condo vs. commercial development is different.

    Other objections to the Tower concern less quantifiable factors about changing the nature of Evanston. These concerns may be fuzzy but are grounded in certain facts. One, the number of households and population will increase. Two, the demographics of condo owners are different from that of single family homeowners. These facts have political implications. Will childless condo residents support the schools as much as family households? After the 2010 census, Evanston’s wards will have to be redrawn. Already after the 2000 census, the downtown had to be gerrymandered into different wards to equalize populations in each. Should Evanston create a 10th ward for downtown? Will condo residents resent being split up into different wards and having their political power diluted? (This was raised as an issue with NU students after the 2000 census.)

    Finally, I sense a missed opportunity. Given that Evanston is a desirable community, rather than letting developers dictate the projects, the citizens, working through their representatives, should express their preferences and have the City Council pro-actively work for development that the citizens would like to see. How about a new live performance hall? What about commercial space for small businesses or entrepreneurial start-ups? A corporate headquarters? We are only limited by our imagination.

  2. condos
    John Zbesko says:
    “Presumably, residents will appreciate the proximity to public transportation, but will still want to own a car and need to park it somewhere. If the parking situation gets any worse than it already is, Evanston risks having a downtown that is only available to the people that live or walk there, cutting it off from the rest of the city”

    I don’t get it. The new condos in Evanston come with garages. The residents will park in their garages. Some of the condos have additional parking, or residents rent out their garage space to others.

    “A new tower would result in increased property tax revenue, but condo residents require city services too, so the net gain from condo vs. commercial development is different.”

    True. But most of the services that condo dwellers use have high fixed costs (water, roads, electricity connections) which are already paid or will be paid by developers, and low marginal costs. We pay taxes to cover these marginal costs, and more. And, as you point out, condo dwellers don’t place a burden on the school system:

    “Two, the demographics of condo owners are different from that of single family homeowners. These facts have political implications. Will childless condo residents support the schools as much as family households?”

    Well..most of us just ignore the school politics. But we are subsidizing your kids.

    “. Already after the 2000 census, the downtown had to be gerrymandered into different wards to equalize populations in each.”

    That is not what ‘gerrymandering’ is. Gerrymandering would be manipulating the boundaries for political ends (like trying to scatter NU students over 2 or 3 wards).

    1. IHOP Development
      MR Who writes-

      “True. But most of the services that condo dwellers use have high fixed costs (water, roads, electricity connections) which are already paid or will be paid by developers, and low marginal costs. We pay taxes to cover these marginal costs, and more. And, as you point out, condo dwellers don’t place a burden on the school system:”

      Mr Who as I recall the city has created many TIFs- for development here. The taxes that would have gone to the operating fund of the city once the condos were built now go to pay for the water.roads and electricity connections you talk about.

      The TIF are developer welfare, worst yet the city tied in the parking garages in many cases to some of the new condos allowing developers to create less parking at an expense to taxpayers.

      The Sherman ave garage is one example of a project that went millions over budget.

      This is not about being anti-development – but the fact the leadership here gave way – our tax dollars to subsidize the devclopment.

      Now they are talking about impact fees on developers- it is alittle late – I doubt we will see any new development here for 3-4 years of any major scale.

      Yes TIF in some cases pay off – but in the case of one recently. NU bought the building in the TIF – so now they had some cash flow issues of even paying the debt, and now no future benefit will come from taxes – I have to wonder why are leadership did not require convenants be placed on the property in the TIFs to keep them on the tax rolls?

      We are not like to see any IHOP’s built here for quite some time – so you will have to go to Skokie to enjoy your pancakes.

      1. Parking problems
        Junad says:

        “The TIF are developer welfare, worst yet the city tied in the parking garages in many cases to some of the new condos allowing developers to create less parking at an expense to taxpayers.

        The Sherman ave garage is one example of a project that went millions over budget.”

        Junad, you tried this argument before.

        Readers may search the archives of EvanstonNow and see that Junad has complained that the Sherman Ave. Garage has too many parking spaces.

        Yet Junad is also upset because the developers for the Tower wish to use some spots in the Sherman Ave garage to fulfill the parking requirement for their building, and Junad has also complained about rental car companies leasing these parking spots.

        Nobody has ever suggested that the City just ‘give’ these spots to anybody.

        But…if the city has parking spots available, and someone wishes to buy or rent them and fair rates…what is wrong with that?

        That’s why Zbesko’s latest claims..that somehow the new condo residents are taking up all of the parking in Evanston…are so ridiculous. Development in Evanston has created MORE parking spaces. Of course, it may be harder to find a street parking spot that Zbesko wants, because there are more things to do downtown now and more demand for spots, but we have the new garages on Maple and Sherman and other sites. Perhaps Zbesko would be happier if our downtown were more like Wilmette, with available free parking because there is no reason to ever go there, or where if you want to both go to the pharmacy and get a cup of coffee, you will have to park twice because of the charming low density development.

        1. Parking Garage and IHOPs
          MR WHO writes

          “Nobody has ever suggested that the City just ‘give’ these spots to anybody.

          But…if the city has parking spots available, and someone wishes to buy or rent them and fair rates…what is wrong with that?”

          inquiring minds would like to know

          if the developers really paid fair market rates? If so – why didn’t they just add it on to their buildings?

          WHO – this is not about development but use of the taxpayers money. –

          Who – by over building it cost plenty of money –

          1. easy question from Junad
            Junad asks:
            “inquiring minds would like to know

            if the developers really paid fair market rates? If so – why didn’t they just add it on to their buildings?”

            As you know, Junad, the developers are limited in how tall they can make their building. Every additional floor of parking means one less floor of condo or office. So it makes sense that developers want to minimize the number of space taken up by parking in their developments.

            With the City’s parking garage, however, every additional floor of parking – if it is used to capacity – means more revenue for the city. Therefore while it may cost slightly more to build some additional parking, if those parking spots are rented or sold to others at a good price, the NPV for the City will be positive.

            Bafflegab.

          2. Who – more Bafflegab
            Who – the city should not have been in the business to build parking spaces for devewlopers in the first place – the Sherman Ave garage went over budget – it is very likely we taxpayers subsidized the developers-
            so much for your NPV,

          3. The parking business
            Junad says:
            “Who – the city should not have been in the business to build parking spaces for devewlopers in the first place “

            Well, Junad, since the fine citizens of the 6th and 7th wards are so obsessed with parking, I can understand why the aldermen thought that they should build a giant parking garage. The bigger, the better.

            Remember, Junad, the 708 Church Building attracts thousands of people who come to see their therapists, buy shoes, and buy AAA batteries and CB radios at Radio Shack. They need parking, and without this parking revenue the City would go bankrupt. Therefore it was a good idea to make the garage as big as possible.

          4. I have had no parking problems
            Who – when I have shopped at Radio Shack Who – I have always been able to park on the street – not in the garage. I do not think the city will go bankrupt for lack of parking revenue – it is likely to go bankrupt for mismanagement but thats another issue.

  3. What do you prefer?
    Mr. Who Knows,

    I don’t get it. You raise some fair counter-points. But do you prefer condo’s over other development, such as commercial space, or a theatre? Do you feel that the best development for downtown is condo development?

    By your comments, you do not sound, IMHO, like most/many of the Evanston residents I’ve spoken to.

    “That is not what ‘gerrymandering’ is. Gerrymandering would be manipulating the boundaries for political ends (like trying to scatter NU students over 2 or 3 wards).”

    Well, we could scatter the condo residents who “just ignore the school politics. [who] are subsidizing your kids.” Just in case they did take an interest.

    I ask the other readers of this forum, don’t speak of what you don’t want, but what you would like for downtown.

    1. Commercial space
      “I don’t get it. You raise some fair counter-points. But do you prefer condo’s over other development, such as commercial space, or a theatre? Do you feel that the best development for downtown is condo development? “

      Commercial space is definitely preferable to anything. But we don’t have developers begging to put up office and retail in Evanston.

      The problem with your arguments is that they echo those of the notorious Central Street “Neighbors” Association. Jeff Smith wrote an article criticizing the downtown plan, and had many of your same objections.

      Here are some problems with the Smith/Zbesko agenda:

      1. Theatre / Performance Space:
      If a private developer wishes to put this downtown, that is great. The City shouldn’t subsidize it.
      This will definitely cause parking and traffic problems, so the NIMBYs will come out against it. (Unless you just want a theatre that doesn’t attract audiences from outside Evanston.)
      I also question the demand – there are performance sites at NU, at Skokie, dozens in Chicago.

      2. Criticizing condo residents because they don’t have kids and won’t care about schools is outrageous, because in the past NIMBYs have used the exact opposite arguments against development. Remember Kendall? Supposedly townhouses would attract too many families with kids, so the development would end up costing us. (I thought that analysis was bogus, but never mind.) Now you are telling us that development that attracts residents without kids is bad too.
      It just seems that the residents of Wards 6 and 7, the domain of the Central Street NIMBY Association, are just intolerant. Only large, single family residences can be permitted. R1 everywhere, zoning continuity, and all that. Apartments, condos, and anything that will attract a different demographic group than the CSNA are forbidden.

      3. It is unrealistic to think that the financial problems of Evanston can be solved by attracting a corporation to put its headquarters here. We cannot just hope that some CEO will decide that he wants to come here and pay our taxes for us.
      If we want lower taxes, we will need to encourage commercial and retail development. Having more residents downtown will promote retail development.

      1. Who – home ownership?
        Mr Who writes

        “It just seems that the residents of Wards 6 and 7, the domain of the Central Street NIMBY Association, are just intolerant. Only large, single family residences can be permitted. R1 everywhere, zoning continuity, and all that. Apartments, condos, and anything that will attract a different demographic group than the CSNA are forbidden.”

        Who in case you did not know the law forbids discrimination on who can buy a home. I know many single people who own homes in R1 areas. Single family houses are not restricted in their ownership.

        Also Who you may live in a tiny condo – with your whomobile – but I know people that own whole floors in condo buildings in Evanston. There are many people in the condos who may own more square footage than single family homes.

        Here again you just do not understand zoning – yes Who R1 zoning only permits single family homes – are you proposing we elminate all zoning so they can build an industrial use next to your condo? Or maybe put up a building right in front of your window ( if you have one ) that blocks your view?

        1. Are there too many old people in Ward 7?
          Junad says:
          “Here again you just do not understand zoning – yes Who R1 zoning only permits single family homes – are you proposing we elminate all zoning so they can build an industrial use next to your condo? Or maybe put up a building right in front of your window ( if you have one ) that blocks your view?”

          I have no legal right to a view. If someone wants to buy the property next to mine and put up a tower, I have no problem with that.

          As for zoning…why must single family residences be surrounded by other single family residences? Why not have a 7-11 or an office within walking distance of houses?

          But let’s go back to Zbesko’s comments about condo residents not supporting the schools because they have no kids. Couldn’t the same thing be said of older people whose kids have finished school (Junad? )..or people who send their kids to private schools. I suspect that there are many people like this living in Wards 6 and 7. I noticed that many of those who came out to protest against the Tower seemed to fit this description, yet I don’t see Zbesko suggesting that they are a problem. Why does he single out condo residents? I am tired of being a scapegoat for the CSNA crowd.

          So..are there too many old people in Ward 7? Enquiring Minds want to know

          1. Old people in Evanston? Who how old are you?
            Enquiring minds want to know how old you are?

            you seem to think only old people live in the 6th and 7th wards?

            All the people I know who are downtown, have sold homes in other suburbs or Evanston and bought condos -most are still working are they Old in your mind?

            You need to start backing your generalization with census data, I think most of the people in both the downtown and 6th and 7th ward are a diverse group –

            Yes Who – most people in the expensive condos in the down town are not going to have kids – but then again some will.

    2. Downtown preference
      I think that what we need downtown isn’t either condos, or a theater or commercial – we need it all: Mixed use! And lots of it. In other words: density. That isn’t to be confused with height, although height (with wind tunnel studies) is not such a bad thing. When you look at any vibrant, successful downtown, it is the mixed use density offset with open spaces scattered around that makes it successful. With density comes less cars (yes, its true), more grocery stores, more offices where we can walk to work, more retail opportunities, more cultural opportunities and, if planned in here and there, more interesting people spaces. Crowds are good if we have good trash pick up, nicely landscaped streetscapes with many more trees and benches, bike parking, etc.. Yes, it takes maintenance (more garbage collection, etc.) which costs money, but there would be more money with more people and businesses to share the cost. Maybe our own small light rail system would even be possible. We must get over the fear of density issue in our downtown – and in some of the other neighborhood “nodes” where low and midrise mixed use projects can provide the same success.

      1. Density is the answer
        Anonymous says:
        ” think that what we need downtown isn’t either condos, or a theater or commercial – we need it all: Mixed use! And lots of it. In other words: density”

        Exactly right, my friend. Density is it, density is good.

        Building condos is not the only answer, but it is part of the answer. Nobody has ever suggested building ‘only condos’ – in fact, having more residents downtown will encourage shops and offices to come here. Nobody is going to open a store in downtown Evanston – which is not near the freeway, has high taxes, and is hard to get to – unless there is a sufficient population base in the city to support it. If there is a population base here, dentists and lawyers (boo!) and insurance agents will open offices downtown too.

        We can’t compete with Old Orchard when it comes to parking lots and freeway access. We can’t compete with the Glen , downtown Wilmette, or the stores on Dempster and Touhy in Niles and Skokie when it comes to parking in front of the store.

        Those who oppose development, such as the Central Street NIMBYs Association, are active in spreading the myth that condos crowd out other development. One famous CSNA member even wrote that condo development pushed out the department stores downtown(never mind that Marshall Field’s closed in 1982, long before the condo boom..that’s nitpicking)…and now we have a candidate for council suggesting that condo residents are taking all the parking spaces…we get blamed for everything.

        I live in a condo, it has a garage. While I take the Metra to work, I occasionally take the Whomobile out for a ride to the IHOP on Skokie Blvd or Willow Rd – but usually it is sitting in my garage. I would have absolutely no reason to park at a downtown meter when I could easily walk anywhere downtown. It is silly to suggest that downtown condo residents are taking all the parking spots.

        1. Fundamental difference of opinion about development
          Anonymous says:
          “think that what we need downtown isn’t either condos, or a theater or commercial – we need it all: Mixed use! And lots of it. In other words: density”

          Mr. Who Knows says:
          “Exactly right, my friend. Density is it, density is good.”

          Gordon Gekko (Wall Street, 1987) said:
          “The point is, ladies and gentleman, that greed — for lack of a better word — is good.
          …Greed works…And greed — you mark my words — will not only save Teldar Paper, but that other malfunctioning corporation called the USA.”

          There you have it- the fundamental political difference between myself and two other citizens who refuse to identify themselves. I do not agree that density, for its own sake, is good. Evanston will not be saved by relentlessly seeking higher property values/property tax revenue, but by better matching its sources of revenue to its expenditures, ie. living within its means.

          For those who agree with me, I welcome your vote. Come April 7, the voters will decide a collective vision of what Evanston will be.

          1. Living within its means
            Zbesko says:
            ” I do not agree that density, for its own sake, is good. Evanston will not be saved by relentlessly seeking higher property values/property tax revenue, but by better matching its sources of revenue to its expenditures, ie. living within its means.”

            1. Does this mean that you want to cut the branch libraries? Enquiring Minds want to know.

            2. Or perhaps the residents of R1 homes should pay their ‘fair share’ for trash removal. Several of the downtown condos choose not to use the City for this service.

            3. As for the Gordon Gekko quote, other than the structural similarities of the sentences, I don’t see the connection between ‘density is good’ and ‘greed is good’. If someone said ‘peace is good’ or ‘kittens are good’, would that be similar to an endorsement of greed?

            4. Living within your means should start at home. Perhaps instead of a community of the proverbial ‘wide lawns and narrow minds’, living in big house in R1 zones surrounded by other R1 zones, we should encourage smaller homes that use fewer resources, like condos. Maybe we should reconsider putting town houses and Kendall. We could move city government out of the giant mausoleum on Ridge and into a smaller, modest, efficient ADA-compliant building. Condos, town homes, a 7-11, and bungalows could be built on the former Civic Center site.

            And of course, the Dawes House, a monument to the pre-FDR era of obscene inequality of wealth, should be torn down and replaced with something less ostentatious and obnoxious, or converted into a rehab facility for wounded veterans. The collection of fancy dresses should be sent to a Goodwill Store.

            5. Fundamental difference of opinion about development? Yes, there is. I see nothing charming about the current economic situation – I would like to see people put back to work. Building things, making things, selling things, developing things. That empty lot at Central & Eastwood is an eyesore – I want to see construction cranes there. I want to see the bulldozers coming to 708 Church, and a new IHOP in Evanston, and I want the noisy Purple Line CTA tracks replaced by a maglev train that will take me to Midway Airport in 15 minutes.

            6. Along with living within our means, the residents of Evanston need to stop finding scapegoats for the problems of this city. Stop blaming Northwestern – the University brings more money into this city than all of the therapists in 708 Church. Stop blaming the condo residents if you can’t find a parking space in front of a store downtown – we subsidize your schools and pay taxes and use few city services.

            7. Density for its own sake is not good, and that is not what I said. Density is good because of the opportunities that it creates – a customer base for downtown merchants and restaurants, support for public transportation , pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods that attract people without cars (like young people out of college, older people who don’t want to drive any more).

            And what are the motives of the anti-density people? Perhaps they just want to drive their cars faster, without all those other people getting in the way. Or perhaps they want the lake to themselves, without sharing it with others. Or perhaps they just hate people.

            Viva la revolucion.

          2. Who – inquiring minds want to know!
            Mr Who writes
            ” Perhaps instead of a community of the proverbial ‘wide lawns and narrow minds’, living in big house in R1 zones surrounded by other R1 zones, we should encourage smaller homes that use fewer resources, like condos”

            Mr Who – your qoute was about Oak Park – are you proposing they tear down all the Wright houses and build condos in their historic district also?

            There is plenty of density here in Evanston – you seem to have very little understanding of zoning.

          3. F.L.Wright
            Junad says:
            “Mr Who – your qoute was about Oak Park – are you proposing they tear down all the Wright houses and build condos in their historic district also?”

            Of course not, Junad. Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture actually is historic. As I have said before, the ‘Civic Center’ has no historic or architectural significance…it is just an old building. The same could be said about Chuckie Dawes’ place.

            Most Wright houses fetch a premium, and few people would tear own down. There are some, of course, that have deteriorated so badly (and those flat roofs can’t handle heavy snowfalls) – and if those can’t be maintained, they should be sold to someone who is willing to fix them, even if they are transported out of town. And even Wright had some minor works that should be demolished.

            [ I wonder if Frankie left some blueprints behind for our new Civic Center…that would be quite an attraction! Check out his Marin County Civic Center . It is much more interesting than our pile of bricks…of course, Evanston would need something more compact, taller, and with a rotating restaurant (IHOP) on top. ]

        2. Density?
          Our great urban scholar and gadfly, Mr Who Knows What?, besides working on NPV, must also be an aspiring city planner. I assume by greater density he is referring to those “successful” urban developments such as Cabrini Green, the banlieues of Paris and Le Corbusier in Brazil.

          Yes indeed, that is what Evanston needs.

          1. Cabrini-Green
            Vito says:

            “I assume by greater density he is referring to those “successful” urban developments such as Cabrini Green, the banlieues of Paris and Le Corbusier in Brazil.”

            If I had a penny for every time the Tower-haters mentioned Cabrini-Green, I could buy a big house in the 6th ward by now.

            What is the fascination with Cabrini-Green? Why do you not mention other densely populated locations, such as Manhattan, Tokyo, the Gold Coast, or Cambridge MA? Why not the Hancock Building?

            Really..do you expect people on public assistance to move in the new tower?

            Or is ‘Cabrini-Green’ a not so subtle code for something else?

  4. Garages
    If you google Sherman Plaza you will see that there are 1583 public spaces and 303 additional spaces owned by the unit owners of the condos. The garage is owned by Evanston who paid the developer to build it. The developer then bought the 303 spaces from the city.

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