Many Evanstonians have suggested that the right model for downtown zoning is a wedding cake — that downtown’s tallest buildings should be at the center, with the height tapering off toward the edges.

But when it comes to the Fountain Square block — generally viewed as being the heart of downtown — the wedding cake metaphor falls flat in the city zoning code. What we’ve got for height limits is what might be described as a fallen souffle.

The Fountain Square block is zoned D2, which, with planned development allowances included, permits a maximum height of 125 feet.

By comparison, the blocks to the east and west — home to the 1603 Orrington Ave. and Sherman Plaza buildings — are zoned D3. That zone, with planned development allowances included, authorizes a maximum height of 220 feet — nearly twice as much as on the Fountain Square block.

The actual height of the 1603 Orrington building is 277 feet. Sherman Plaza is one foot shorter.

The developers pitching the new 523-foot tall condo tower for the 708 Church St. site obviously prefer the weddinng cake metaphor.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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