Developers of the proposed 49-story tower building on the Fountain Square block announced at this evening’s Evanston Plan Commission meeting that they have reached agreement to acquire the neighboring historic landmark Hahn Building.

Developer Tim Anderson of Focus Development said they plan to maintain the three-story Hahn Building “in its historic context.”

“We won’t gut the building and leave the facade,” he added — a reference to the plan from another developer, since withdrawn, for building a 37-story tower atop the landmark building.

Mr. Anderson said the developers plan to fix up the existing facade of the building and retain the existing Class B office space on the second and third floors.

Loss of Class B office space under the two tower proposals for the block had led to objections to the plans from owners of smaller professional offices in the downtown area.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. After attending the Planning
    After attending the Planning Commission Hearing last night, one can only wonder if the gentleman that said this building appears to be a done deal as the Commission was more worried about the color of the tile on the building than the effects it would have on the community. The developers did a great sales job last night. However, I do believe believe the traffic study understates the traffic impact of the development increase. The Traffic Study claims that the retail space will be a wash on traffic (equal number of cars for equal cars), I am sure Barnes and Noble would dissagree since they moved accross the street and their volume increased. The retailers should see an increase, or the extra rent and renovation were not worth it.

    I am also concerned that if the Developer does not gain the required approvals, they will tear down the Hahn Building and create another complex similar to Sheman Plaza, a large wall of condos.

    Another resident mentioned, and Mr Anderson acknowledged, that in Sherman Plaza the rental percentage is now over 40%. Do we need another dorm for Northwestern in downtown?

    1. Tower not a “done deal”
      Anonymous (I just love that name):

      I don’t think anyone at the PC meeting thinks the tower proposal is a “done deal”. However, due to a number of factors (such as exclusion from the downtown moratorium, closed meetings with city officials and private meetings with select organizations), it has that murky appearance.

      That being said, there are many steps that the development team must go through before any approval can be made. The developer is asking for MANY variations to current zoning. In order to get approval, the developer must be able to PROVE specific public benefits that OUTWEIGH the potentially negative aspects of the variations. Because of the sheer magnitude of the proposed development, any positive decision would require a super-majority (2/3) vote of the City Council.

      The developers did an OK (not great) sales job at the meeting. They still have a great deal of hurdles to overcome before being allowed to build anything. There are many problems with the proposal that should be addressed as well as many questions that need to be answered. Among the questions are:

      • what is the “real” impact on traffic? – did anyone take the initial KLOA traffic report seriously?
      • what is the effect of the building on City infrastructure and services? what about impact on police and fire? is the Evanston Fire Dept. trained and equipped for a 49 story tower?
      • who are these “real” retailers that the developer intends to bring in? if they are such of a draw, how come traffic won’t increase?
      • why is the developer asking for close to 100 parking spaces LESS than is required under zoning?
      • does a 49 story tower fit in the “vision” of downtown Evanston? what precedent would it set for future development?
      • what are the realistic projections for the TIF money the developer is stating as a benefit? how would the funds be used? the TIF funds will NOT lower your taxes!
      • what effect will the tower have on neighboring buildings? shadow? wind? property values?
      • does the Evanston skyline need a building twice the height of the tallest building – something quite freudian- or, would it make more sense to build in the context of the existing buildings?
      • why the rush to build before any of the current downtown planning is complete?
      • what do the citizens of Evanston want for downtown? last I heard, they were still at the top of the organizational chart.

      Certainly not a complete list, but enough to show this is not under any circumstances a “done deal”. I would encourage all concerned taxpayers to participate in the process and let your elected officials and the Plan Commission know what your feelings are about the proposed tower.

    2. Hahn Building important, NU kids are okay too
      I too am concerned that the developers might try to tear down the Hahn Building, if not granted at least some of the approvals they are seeking. They want to preserve it, but at what cost? The City has a great opportunity here to do something amazing with this block, and it would be a huge mistake to not take advantage of this.
      Also, another comment in your post intrigues me. I’m curious as to what impact it has on the general Evanston population if 40% of units are rented after the initial purchase or not. This seems more like an issue within the building’s HOA, as it really only affects the people living in that building. The owner of the unit is still paying property taxes and responsible for the unit, renting seems to have little affect on unit value (as is evident in Sherman Plaza) and the HOA is still responsible for maintaining the building’s common areas.
      Though your NU dorm comment seems intended to be contentious, it makes a lot of sense. NU is a huge part of this community, and if students want to live in the downtown area and have the means to buy or rent condos, why would this be seen as a problem? That type of housing seems far more appropriate for students to live in than rented single family houses in the neighborhoods surrounding NU.

      1. Actually there are several
        Actually there are several condo developments downtown with over a 40% rental, and it is affecting the values, as well as the ability for FNMA to lend on these buildings. I do agree that Northwestern is a viable part of the community. That being said, then if this city is that broke, even with some of the highest taxes in the area, then tax the university. It is a private school, they aren’t going to leave, we should take back some of the land for more condos.

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