Plans announced 18 months ago by the John Buck Company to build a 20-story condominium development on a narrow vacant lot at 605 Davis St. are dead.

Martha Koch, a member of the family that owns the property, submitted preliminary plans at the city’s Site Plan and Appearance Review Committee meeting this afternoon to construct a mostly one-story retail building on the site instead.

The new plans show a building with a shallow second-floor display window area at the front, and a three-bay front facade designed to echo the adjacent landmark University Building at the corner of Davis and Chicago Avenue.

The new building would be 60 feet wide and 90 feet deep with parking at the rear.

Assistant Community Development Director Carolyn Brzezinski said was “very surprised to have a one-story building proposed in this very prominent location downtown.”

She suggested a full two-story building instead. Other committee members noted that would create requirements for staircases and an elevator and reduce the rentable space per floor, but she suggested that variations could be considered to deal with those issues.

Tad Cook, a realtor and community member of the committee, said he wondered what retailers would be attracted to the 20-foot-wide by 90-foot-deep spaces and also suggested that additional stories would make it a more interesting building.

The property has been vacant for many years and Ed Schwartz, a consultant to the owners, said the joke going around is that the fence in front of the property soon might be landmarked.

Alderman Cheryl Wollin, whose 1st Ward includes the property, said she was “excited to see something happening there.”

But Community Development Director James Wolinski voiced some skepticism, saying “over the years I’ve seen plans for everything up to a 50-story building” on the site.

Buck’s plan for the 20-story development reportedly foundered over an inability to reach an agreement with Chase Bank, whose drive-thru is just to the west, over an easement to permit construction of windows on the west facade of the building.  The plans had called for sharing a parking ramp with the existing Buck development to the north of the site.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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