The 100-foot tall mixed-use development at Chicago Avenue and Main Street slipped through City Council on July 28 and was approved with no debate. Set to be built on a long-vacant lot at 835 Chicago Ave., the tower will combine primarily residential units with a single floor of office space and ground-floor retail space.
Several residents spoke against the project, but among council members only Melissa Wynne, whose Third Ward includes the Main/Chicago intersection, spoke, calling the project "a major, major development in all of Evanston. ... I am very much in support of this building [and think] it will improve the entire community."
The City has long sought a development that would primarily consist of office space according to staff materials and Ald. Wynne. "During visitations with the Economic Development staff, merchants in the area have noted that when the previous building that included office use was demolished, a decrease in daytime activity was noted," according to the staff memo.
Office space comes at a significant cost. "The development team has preliminarily concluded that the inclusion of [a single floor of office space in the nine-story development] will create a financial gap of approximately $2.9 million," continues the memo. The developers are expected to ask the City to fill that gap through direct funding through the 2013 Main-Chicago tax-increment financing (TIF) district, a matter staff expects to return to City Council in September.
According to the plans submitted, the office space results in the loss of between 11 and 12 rental units. The project will have 112 dwelling units under the current configuration.
A lack of sufficient parking delayed the project in March, when Council held the proposed ordinance rather than debate it in earnest. Under Evanston Ordinances, a development the size of the Chicago Main building would require 216 parking spaces. In March, the developers proposed only 122, arguing that proximity to public transit – the Purple Line CTA is directly across the street and Metra just a few steps beyond the CTA – limited the need for parking.
A skeptical Council and public never fully weighed in, but parking problems in the area have long caused resident complaints.
The revised proposal, passed unanimously Monday night, increases the project's parking spaces to 152 by including 25 spaces in a rented parking lot about 500 feet north of the project. Ald. Wynne said the rented lot is "the same parking lot used by the [previous] building" there.
Floor-area ratio, number of dwelling units, maximum height, and setbacks also require variations for the project, all of which are not uncommon for planned developments. The development may not remain rental forever, as a condominium conversion is contemplated in the ordinance. If converted, the project will donate $440,000 to the City’s affordable housing fund. That indicates that the project will not include affordable units.
If all goes well, construction could begin as soon as the end of 2014.