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Less of a tower and more of a box is expected from developers Tim Anderson and James Klutznick and architect Lawrence Booth when they present a new proposal to Council members at a Planning and Development Committee meeting scheduled for April 8. That building could still be as high as 37 or 38 stories, some have said.

At the March 25 Planning and Development Committee meeting, the developers requested an extension so they could change their proposal, which at present is a 49-story tower with one floor of retail space, four stories of parking and the remainder condominium units.

“What was demonstrated [at the last meeting] is that you are eliminating an economic engine from downtown Evanston.”

— Alderman Melissa Wynne

“I suggest that you consider meaningful public benefits,” Aldermen Steve Bernstein, 4th Ward, told the developers. “To the extent you’re going to lop off some floors, that could be accommodating to some,” he added.

Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, who at the March 17 meeting disputed that the tower proposal provided any “public benefits,” said, “What was demonstrated [at the last meeting] is that you are eliminating an economic engine from downtown Evanston.” Ald. Wynne said more office space was needed.

Resident Jeff Smith said building the tower is “like having a 49-story tail wag a 75,000-person dog.”

Aldermen said they would decide after they see the new proposal whether to send it to the Plan Commission for further debate or to keep it at the Planning and Development Committee. A divisive and divided 4-3 vote at the Plan Commission sent the original tower proposal to City Council with eight conditions.

Alderman Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, who chairs the Planning and Development Committee, said, “Let’s wait and see what the project is before we decide whether to send it back or not.”

Even though the postponement was granted before the start of the City Council meeting, several speakers still voiced their opposition to the proposed tower. Constantine Savoy, himself a planner, noted that the developers had reframed their presentation of the tower. “First it was an icon; now it ‘disappears into the sky.’”

He also said he felt the “driving issue” for the City was a financial one and that granting the zoning relief to allow the tower would be a windfall to the developers. “This is worse than spot zoning and sets a dangerous precedent that a tall building can be anywhere.” He also said he felt a massive building could also be beautiful if done correctly. “Look at the Merchandise Mart [in Chicago],” he said.

Referring to the promise of silver LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification, Jeff Smith said he felt that LEED certification should not be regarded as a public benefit but a baseline mandate for all new construction. He also criticized the Council for allowing the downtown plan to proceed independently of the tower proposal.

Doing that, Mr. Smith said, “subverts the downtown plan and the climate-action plan that we’re in the middle of right now and renders them a side note.” He said if the tower is built, people who look at it in the future could say, “That’s what they built, and then they did their plan. … It’s like having a 49-story tail wag a 75,000-person dog.”

Mary Gavin

Mary Gavin is the founder of the Evanston RoundTable. After 23 years as its publisher and manager, she helped transition the RoundTable to nonprofit status in 2021. She continues to write, edit, mentor...