Despite delays, Sherman Plaza nearing next phase

Greg Lowe and Greg Lowe

By Greg Lowe

The Daily Northwestern

So far Evanston’s Sherman Plaza development consists of just a sign and a hole in the ground. But James Klutznick, the developer of the much-delayed project, said this week that things will change soon.

Klutznick said he is working on finishing the financing for the project, which was announced in 1999 and is expected to cost $110 million. The next phase, the demolition of the Sherman Avenue parking garage, should start early next year, Klutznick said.

“There’s no sense taking the garage out during the holiday season,” he said.

The final Sherman Plaza development will cover the block bounded by Sherman and Benson avenues and Church and Davis streets. It will feature a branch of the Lakeshore Athletic Club and Spa, which is a partner in the development.

The project also will include 200 condominiums and a variety of other stores. A new 1,400-space parking garage will replace the smaller garage.

The new parking garage will be the first part of the development to open, Klutznick said. He expects it to be completed in spring 2005, with the stores following that fall.

Klutznick said the list of stores will be announced later this year.

“I think people are going to be pleased with the selection of stores,” he said.

Two other buildings will have to be demolished before the development can continue, Klutznick said, including Osco Drug, 1630 Sherman.

Osco will move to a temporary store at 1710 Sherman while the Sherman Plaza development is built. Once the project is finished, Osco will move to a permanent location on Church.

Sherman Plaza originally was slated to be completed by fall 2001, with a Sears Roebuck store as the centerpiece. But Sears pulled out of the project, which has faced numerous delays because of financing problems.

Klutznick said Evanston City Council has supported the development, despite the difficulties the project has faced.

“We’ve had pretty much unanimous support from the council,” he said.

Ald. Arthur Newman (1st), whose ward includes the development, declined to comment on the project’s status because he did not want to speak for the developers.

But the long wait has left some, including several local business owners, skeptical about the future of the development.

“We have no idea when he’s going to do it,” said Hasib Blan, owner of Olive Mountain, 610 Davis. The restaurant was forced to move two years ago from its Church Street location to make room for the development.

Blan added that he was concerned about the success of Klutznick’s final development project.

“I think he’s having troubles,” Blan said. “He has to have trouble, otherwise there wouldn’t be so many delays.”

Rich Iverson, manager of Williams Shoes, 710 Church, said he is happy to see the project finally getting off the ground.

“It’s been sad to see all that potential business and all the wasted tax revenue going into that hole in the ground,” Iverson said. “Hopefully by next year there can finally be some development there.”

Iverson said a lot of downtown businesses are taking a “wait-and-see” attitude toward the development.

“We’re glad that they didn’t tear down that garage already,” he said, “because that would have been a disaster.”