Developer Bob Horne has invited residents near Central Street to offer suggestions about possible tenants of the ground-floor retail space at 1700-02 Central St. He plans to construct The Eastwood, a four-story rental apartment complex there, on the site of the now-demolished Central Street Theatres.

In 2007 City Council approved a planned development for The Eastwood as a 51-unit condominium development with 81 parking spaces, but ground was never broken. Mr. Horne said, however, that the concept for residential development on that nearly one-acre site remained active, and the new plan evolved with nearly the same building footprint as the original one.

The Proposed Project

Although there will likely be 78 units in the development, Mr. Horne and Mr. Breclaw said the number of each type of unit – studio, one-bedroom, two-bedroom and three-bedroom – has not yet been determined. Prospective tenants, said Mr. Horne, include workers at Evanston Hospital and graduate students at Northwestern University. Rents could range from about $1,950 per month for a one-bedroom unit to $2,300 per month for a two-bedroom unit, he said.

Entry to the garage would be from the alley, and a second-floor terrace – part private and part common area – would face south, also toward the alley. To avoid congestion and additional traffic in the neighborhoods, Mr. Horner said his team had considered asking the City to make Eastwood Avenue a two-way street south of Central Street to the alley.

Mr. Horne said no leases have been signed but he has “started to get phone calls. … There has been interest in a brew pub. [Owners of the Bluestone] may expand across the street. I’ve reached out to a yoga studio; a woman has expressed interest in [starting] a restaurant, and I’ve had contact about a coffee shop.” He also noted that suggestions on the Central Street Neighbors Association website include “a meat shop and a dessert/chocolatier.”

The building, Mr. Horne said, would improve the tax base by increasing the property taxes on the site to $350,000-$400,000 per year, “and there will be sales taxes and liquor taxes [from the retail shops and the restaurant]. … [The project] will re-establish east Central Street as an important retail corridor.”

Residents’ Comments

While the nearly 40 residents at the meeting expressed little interest in the ground-floor retail, many homed in on the rental aspect, the availability of parking, the aesthetics of the proposed building and landscaping and how, if at all, this proposed development would fit in with the Central Street Master Plan, also approved in 2007.

“What are the economic hurdles that you have to pass before you can build?” asked John Zbesko. “We have to demonstrate to a lender that we can achieve a reasonable rate of return … and have a portion of the retail in place,” Mr. Horne said, adding that he is meeting with lenders and “several capital partners.”

One resident said, “I see a … wall of 48 feet. There are no rounded corners on the building. I don’t believe I would see this building in Winnetka or Glencoe. I think I would see it in Cabrini Green. I would like a softer building.”

Another resident said, “It looks fine from my perspective as an Evanstonian. … Central Street east of Green Bay is kind of a hodge-podge. There is a football stadium in the middle and a hospital at the end and many things in between.” Mr. Horne said both Wilmette and Winnetka “have several similar buildings. … I would not agree that this is not appropriate for the location. There are four-story apartment buildings on two corners. Contextually this building is not dissimilar to what is in this community.”

In response to a question, Mr. Horne said he felt the 78 spaces would be adequate for the building. He added, however, that he believed that his company could sublease from the City some spaces in the Ryan Field parking lot just west of the proposed building. The City leases about 100 spaces in that lot from Northwestern University. Carl Bova said at least two parking spaces on Eastwood Avenue would be eliminated if Eastwood were to become a two-way street even to the alley, and asked how those spaces would be replaced.

Next Steps

Dennis Marino, zoning manager for the City said that the Planned Development ordinance approved for the site in 2008 expires in July, 2012. “City Council would [have to] amend the ordinance to accommodate the [additional] retail space and the changes in the number of units and parking,” he said.

Mr. Horne told the RoundTable he thought the meeting was “positive” and “overall went well. I think the building will complement the neighborhood.” He also said he liked the building. “I don’t think you’re ever going to please every person. The residential [component] is a natural fit [since] the property is half a block away from a train station.”

Mr. Horne said he and Mr. Breclaw will continue to fine-tune the conceptual design. “We’re not waiting for economic change. We want to start right away.” He said he hopes construction would begin in the spring of 2012 and the project would take a year to complete.

At a meeting held on June 7 at the Ecology Center, Mr. Horne of Dodge Capital and Michael Breclaw of OKW Architects, presented the new concept design: a 78-unit four-story rental apartment complex with 78 parking spaces and about 13,000 square feet of ground-floor retail, with a restaurant likely as one of the tenants. The proposed height (48 feet) and floor-area ratio (2.27) are the same as in the original proposal. The building would have four “segments,” with two alternating segments set back about 10 feet from the other two. The building will be either LEED Silver-certified or will meet at least 15 of the City’s sustainable-building standards, he said. It would be made of “masonry with panels,” said Mr. Horne, and would resemble The Reserve, the apartment complex on the southeast corner of Ridge Avenue and Emerson Street.

East Central Street Businesses Support The Eastwood

Some business owners around Central Street say they support the construction of condominiums on the site of the old Central Street Theatre and believe it will help the community

Bob Danon, owner of R.C. Danon Gallery,1814 Central St., said, “”Between Bluestone, and Eastwood, it’ll be a boom for our side of the tracks. When you think of Central Street you only think of West Central Street.””

Mr. Danon added that he believes what will be good for East Central Street will be good for all of Central Street.

Julie Heinz of Preston’s Flowers, located at 1726 Central St., said she hopes The Eastwood will liven the area up again.

“”It died when the theatre left, so hopefully it’ll bring life back and give it a little lift,”” added Ms. Heinz. “”Hopefully, the people will support the neighborhood business.””