City Council approves sale of Chicago Avenue parking lot


Katie Pach/Daily Senior Staffer

Ald. Melissa Wynne (3rd) speaks at City Council on Monday. Wynne opposed the sale of the parking lot adjacent to the Evanston Public Library, which passed in a 6-2 vote.

Amelia Langas, Assistant City Editor

City Council approved in a 6-2 vote early Tuesday morning the sale of the parking lot adjacent to the Evanston Public Library.

Both citizens and aldermen expressed concerns about adding another office building to the city landscape, with Ald. Melissa Wynne (3rd) and Ald. Eleanor Revelle (7th) voting against the sale.

The sale was first introduced to council in July 2016. By April of this year, Evanston had received three bids for purchasing the city-owned property. According to city documents, the $4 million bid from development firm Chicago Avenue Partners was accepted. Council decided at Monday’s meeting the lot would be sold to the firm at the bid price.

Wynne voiced concern over the positioning of the new building, as the lot is situated between the historic Frances Willard House Museum and the Woman’s Club of Evanston.

“These two buildings that are on either side are much too significant … for us to try and shoehorn a building, no matter how lovely, into such a small space,” Wynne said. “The setback is too narrow (and) the alley issues are already terrible when we look at this design.”

Glen Madeja, executive director of the Frances Willard House Museum, said representatives of the museum had been encouraged by the city to meet with developers to discuss concerns about the adverse effects of construction.

Madeja said most of their concerns were rejected without discussion, but the developers agreed to block access to the alley from the north side of the building and work with the museum on landscaping the north side.

Evanston resident Trisha Connolly said she opposed the sale of the lot because she wants the land to be kept public. She said constructing an office building next to the library is “unsettling.”

“The centrally located parcel of land was designated in our 2009 and 2000 plans to become a space for public activity,” Connolly said. “Disregarding this designation of a public space and instead selling it off to a developer to create an anonymous office building … shows disregard for communities that enjoy public spaces.”

Although the 2000 Evanston Comprehensive General Plan states the city must work to preserve the balance among office, retail and residential spaces downtown, city manager Wally Bobkiewicz told The Daily earlier this month that both the 2000 and 2009 plans are guidelines and have not been enacted into law.

Though many people opposed the sale of the lot, Ald. Donald Wilson (4th) and others supported it. Wilson said he expects the developers to “minimize and mitigate” any harm to the area surrounding the development and added that some of the money brought in could be used around Evanston.

“Some of this funding will be able to be utilized to help some of our existing parks and to improve the condition of those that do desperately need some updates,” Wilson said.

Ald. Ann Rainey (8th), who said she hopes for something “brilliant” to be constructed in the lot, said the addition of office space to the downtown area would be beneficial to current businesses because office workers would likely flock there during lunch.

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