Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

66° Evanston, IL
Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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City officials discuss unfinished Sienna Condominiums

A condominium complex three blocks from campus that has been left half-built for several years may be finally taking a step toward completion, city officials said this week. The building could eventually serve as a home for Northwestern students.

The site for Sienna Condominiums near Ridge and Oak avenues and Clark Street has remained unfinished for three or four years, said Dennis Marino, city planning division director. Developer Thomas Roszak declared bankruptcy after two of the planned four buildings were constructed, he said.

Inland Bank subsequently took ownership of the property. What remains are two weakly managed condominium complexes and one “eyesore” of a vacant lot, Ald. Donald Wilson (4th) said.

“People and businesses in that area have concerns about how the lot looks and what will become of it,” Wilson said. “It just doesn’t look good.”

Now, talks regarding the complex’s construction are underway, he said.

But while city officials like Marino have hope for the future of the project, Wilson said the project will most likely remain halted for the immediate future.

“It’s a stalled project, and it’s not going anywhere at the moment for the most part,” he said. “The city just has to work with the bank to maintain the property so it doesn’t become more dangerous or unsightly than it might already be.”

Wilson said the failure of Sienna Condominiums is another example of many failed development projects around the city. He cited other examples at Chicago Avenue and Main Street, Central Street where the old theaters used to be and the downtown tower project that never came through.

“These failed projects had a lot of collateral impact,” Wilson said. “People in existing buildings don’t want to stick around because they don’t know if or when they will have to leave.”

The number of failed development projects is due in part to the lack of attention paid to the actual demand for housing at the time, he said.

“There was too much supply and not enough need for that many residences,” Wilson said. “The market just wasn’t there.”

The next step in moving forward with the Sienna condos is finding a builder to complete construction on the vacant lot, zoning planner Dominick Argumedo said. However, while there are discussions in progress with various developers who have made inquiries, there is no specific plan on file and no papers have been officially submitted, Argumedo said.

Finances are the main issue in completing the multistage project, Assistant City Manager Martin Lyons said. In addition, problems with ownership are a reason for the lack of progress at the lot, he said. Plans for construction can’t be made if the property were to “change hands,” Lyons said.

“When the finances work out so that a private developer can come in, then we can move forward,” he said.

Wilson said he laments over the situation, as the Sienna Condominiums would have built up the surrounding area into a “walkable space” by increasing foot traffic and building up businesses.

“I don’t fault the developers,” he said. “Ultimately, the demand just wasn’t there. It’s just unfortunate that they built the back two units first.”

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City officials discuss unfinished Sienna Condominiums