As a reviewer of architecture I usually write about new buildings recently completed or about to be built. The slow-down in the economy, unfortunately, has lead to a number of delayed or outright abandoned projects.
The most sizeable of these projects is the Tower that was planned downtown at the intersection of Sherman and Orrington and would have been the tallest building in Evanston. Community acrophobia delayed the approval process but it never changed my support of this significant high-rise in the hands of a good designer, architect Larry Booth. I hope that the economy will pick up soon and encourage the developer to try again.
Another project I supported was at the southeast corner of South Boulevard and Sheridan that would have replaced the blue-curtain-wall apartment building. It was a sensitively conceived design stepping up to five floors from the three-story neighbor to the east. The developer must have been prescient, getting cold feet years prior to the economic downturn. The good news is the owners of the blue building have replaced the blue panels with a much pleasanter color.
I do not know the fate of two projects along Chicago Avenue but the demise of either would not be a great loss to architecture. The first of these is the residential project planned for the southeast corner of Chicago and Main, where there is an empty lot now. This should be a lesson to the Evanston building department not to issue a demolition permit until there is evidence of financial feasibility. Even if left in place, though, the two-story building would stand vacant because the news of development generally empties existing buildings. Tenants cannot sit until the last minute. This occurred at Chicago and Davis as well as at Orrington and Church.
The other project that need not be grieved for if abandoned is the one planned for the east side of Chicago Avenue going south from the corner of Chicago and Kedzie. Since the developer was planning it “by right” without any zoning variation, we have little basis on which to defeat – or improve – the development if the economy revives and the developer decides to proceed.
The economic downturn has created more vacant properties than these. The Kendall College site, the movie theater site on Central Street, the small commercial site on the north side of Davis west of the corner of Chicago Avenue, the corner of Church and Darrow, and on and on. Not to mention the potion of the Siena project along Ridge Avenue that would have provided the handicapped access, thus saving the developer from a major law suit.
Existing projects are also being hurt by the economy. Many condominiums are now marketed as rental apartments; some, like the curved building at the south-east corner of Ridge and Emerson, have sold only a few apartments, and are in receivership.
I only hope that the economy will revive soon and we can fight again for what we believe is good design.