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The excitement over the possibility of a Trader Joe’s grocery store coming to Evanston galvanized City Council members into tentatively approving changes to the planned development ordinance governing the project proposed for 1890 Maple Ave., at Emerson Street.

Developer Robert King of Carroll Properties proposes a 14-story mixed-use high-rise rental building for the site. At the July 14 City Council meeting, Mike Deegan, a representative of Trader Joe’s, said the company would set up a Trader Joe’s in that project. In addition, David Reifman of DLA Piper, attorney for the developer, said Trader Joe’s had signed a letter of intent in late June, indicating they would establish a grocery store in the 1890 Maple Ave. development.

A planned development for the site was already approved, granting zoning relief for height and parking allowances. Under that agreement, Mr. King also agreed to pay $150,000 as a public benefit to the City, to be used for upgrading and re-timing the traffic lights along Emerson Street between Ridge and Maple avenues.

At the July 14 meeting, the developer requested a curb cut on Emerson Street to accommodate the Trader Joe’s customer and freight traffic. At the July 28 meeting, the developer said he had reduced the retail space from 40,000 square feet to 15,000 square feet; added two apartments, bringing the total to 154; and added sufficient parking to meet the City’s 249-space requirement for the project. Because the on-site parking now satisfies the City’s zoning requirement, Mr. King no longer seeks to lease 44 spaces in the Maple Avenue garage, the developer said.

The new proposal calls for a curb-cut on Emerson Street for entry to the project, and the elimination of two metered parking spaces, for which the developer will pay the City $4,500 annually.

Eric Russell of KLOA, whom the developer hired to conduct a traffic study, said the grocery store and apartments would generate about 50 additional trips per day during the morning rush period. He said there would be no significant difference during the peak evening period.

Because of the expected increased traffic and the width of the trucks – up to 62 feet – City traffic experts also recommended relocating the curbs on University Place in the rear of the development. Other proposed changes galvanized by the development are eliminating the free parking on both sides of Emerson Street between Ridge and Maple avenues, possibly adding metered parking on the south side and eliminating parking altogether on the north side. The Parking Committee may address the potential parking changes.

Aldermen voted 7-1 to approve the amended ordinance for introduction. Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, said she was delighted a Trader Joe’s was finally coming to Evanston.

Alderman Edmund Moran, 6th Ward, who cast the sole “no” vote, said he disagreed with Mr. Russell’s conclusions. He said he felt the traffic congestion on Emerson would be “too great. … There is potential real difficulty on Emerson Street with parking and traffic,” he said. He acknowledged that Mr. Reifman said Trader Joe’s had signed a letter of intent dated June 30 but said he had not seen it and added, “A letter of intent is not binding.” Calls by the RoundTable to Mr. Reifman were not returned, and requests for a copy of the letter of intent did not receive a response.

Under the amended planned-development ordinance the project must be completed by Oct. 1, 2010.

Council is scheduled to vote on the matter at the Aug. 11 City Council meeting.