Aldermen hold Chicago Avenue development in committee

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Daily file photo by Colin Boyle

Ald. Judy Fiske (1st) speaks at City Council. Fiske’s constituents include organizations along the block of the proposed development

Emma Edmund, Reporter

At a Planning & Development Committee meeting Monday, aldermen held requests for a special use permit and zoning map amendment for a planned development on Chicago Avenue in committee until Feb. 11.

The planned development, a 13-story office space to be located at 1714-1720 Chicago Ave., would require both a special use permit and an area zoning switch, allowing the “most intense development within the city,” according to city documents. However, residents and aldermen raised concerns that the property would overtake parking for the Evanston Public Library and detract from the historical architecture of the area, and the committee postponed further action until mid-February.

Paul Janicki of Paul Janicki Architects presented his proposed structure to the committee. He said the new space would bring in 500 office workers and over $1 million in property taxes a year. The new building would have a brick and limestone facade that mimics the architecture of the surrounding historical buildings, including the library and the Carlson Building.

“We embraced that approach and worked to make our building sympathetic to the wonderful heritage of downtown’s best architecture,” Janicki said.

However, the developers modified the proposal from the original one agreed on by the city. The original proposal included only 11 stories, and it required the developers to replace all 74 parking spots that the library would lose. Under the new plan, only 21 spaces would be available to the public during business hours.

Ald. Melissa Wynne (3rd) cited the smaller parking allotment as one of the reasons she would vote against the proposal, calling it a “bait-and-switch.”

“Seventy-four spaces is a nonstarter — you either replace them or you don’t,” Wynne said. “I know many of us who visit a dentist or another business in the Carlson Building. That is the parking lot, and that parking lot supports many, many of the other businesses that we have in our downtown.”

Wynne also expressed concern that the new building would make the nearby alley dangerous for Evanston residents, especially children who use the alley to walk to the library.

On the other hand, Ald. Judy Fiske (1st) said she supports the creation of the office building to support downtown Evanston. She added that the area needs to balance office space with businesses to create foot traffic for stores.

Fiske emphasized that the process for developing the lot has been going on for many years, and she added that using “derogatory” terms like “bait-and-switch” in a community meeting sets back the process.

“We need something here that really speaks to Evanston, that speaks to the character of Evanston, that speaks to the architectural history of Evanston and how we feel about living here,” Fiske said. “We live here because it’s different. We live here because it’s beautiful. We live here because of all the history that comes to bear on our everyday lives within the city.”

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