Getting your Evanston news from Facebook? Try the Evanston RoundTable’s free daily and weekend email newsletters – sign up now!
Subscribe to the newsletter!
A proposal by developer Tom Roszak to replace two promised condominium towers in his Sienna development with a “select service” hotel has yet to gain support from neighbors and residents. On March 5, about 50 persons attended a meeting at the Civic Center at which Mr. Roszak described the hotel and the reasons for his proposed change. Although none of the persons who spoke appeared to favor the change, Mr. Roszak said several times he would continue to meet with neighbors and work with the City to try to forge a resolution.
The Sienna project is located on a former parking lot between Church and Clark streets just east of Ridge Avenue, facing Oak Avenue. Approved by City Council as a planned-unit development in 2004, the project calls for four condominium towers.
Units in one of the buildings are completely sold, Mr. Roszak said; the other building, he said, is “substantially complete and 50-percent sold.” Yet, he said, “Because the [real estate] market is difficult, we are making this change.” He noted the original zoning – which he had changed to accommodate his residential project – would have accommodated a hotel.
The hotel – a “select service” hotel – would be operated by the Starwood Hotels group, Mr. Roszak said. Starwood Hotels in this class carry the brand name “aloft,” and this one would be called Sienna-aloft. The 210-room hotel, said Mr. Roszak, would have two seven-story connecting towers, a pool, an exercise room and a small bar but no restaurant. Sienna-aloft, he said, would be comparable to but a “higher level” than a Hilton Garden Inn or a Courtyard by Marriott. The cost would be $160-$260 per night.
Sienna residents would share the hotel’s amenities, thus lowering their association costs, Mr. Roszak said.
Privacy, Aesthetics and Accessibility
Sienna residents expressed concern about the transformation from a private residential area to a more public space. “How is it beneficial that, instead of 130 additional condominium owners there will be 30,000 to 50,000 strangers each year? How is that a benefit to my $800,000 condo?” one resident asked.
A circular plaza near the center of the project, used for automobile turn-arounds, would be more intensely used if the hotel were built. With the planned condos, it would have remained a somewhat secluded plaza, one resident said. Another said she was concerned about the bar area of the hotel – another feature that would attract the public to what is now a private residential area.
A resident of nearby 1800 Ridge Ave. asked if the hotel could be made more aesthetically pleasing.
Seven of the Sienna units are owned by clients of Center for Independent Futures, a not-for-profit organization that helps procure housing and support services to allow disabled adults to live independently. Dr. Jane Doyle, executive director of CIF, said safety, accessibility and traffic were the main concerns for the CIF clients. “It hasn’t been real clear what the safety and security will be with a transient population [the hotel guests],” she added. Talks with Mr. Roszak and the City will continue, Dr. Doyle said.
Asked what he would do if the City turned down his request for a hotel, Mr. Roszak said he would submit another proposal that incorporated the City’s suggestions. He also said he would continue to meet with residents, neighbors and CIF to work out a solution. He did not, it appeared, wish to revisit the idea of building the two originally promised condominium towers.
Several residents of Tom Roszak’s Sienna development are clients from the Center for Independent Futures, a local not-for-profit agency that helps young adults with disabilities to live independently.
Most seem to enjoy living there but some have experienced difficulty in getting out of the project and then back home. Andrea Harris,”” who lives at 1720 Oak Ave. in the Sienna project and uses a wheelchair said, “”I love my home. It’s beautiful. What I don’t like is that there is no accessible way to get into it.”” Accessibility, she said, “”traditionally meant [using] the back entrance. One reason I was so excited about this was the idea I could use my own front door.””
Ms. Harris and others find that, although the access road from Oak Avenue into the project has a sidewalk, the incline is too steep for a wheelchair. Residents who use wheelchairs must use the fire lane, which opens onto Ridge Avenue, adding about a full block to their route whenever they leave their homes. When she returns home, Ms. Harris said, she can cut through the garage, but she feels it is “”dangerous and dirty.””
Dr. Jane Doyle, executive director of CIF, said up to nine more CIF clients may move into the development.