Ridge Avenue façade of proposed new Sienna building, 1717 Ridge Ave., looking southeast. Rendering courtesy of Booth Hansen architects.

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Northfield-based Focus Development has purchased the hole in the Second Ward. The hole remained at the Sienna Development block, bounded roughly by Oak and Ridge avenues and Clark and Church streets, when developer Thomas Roszak declared bankruptcy a few years ago after constructing only part of the project: two of the four planned buildings and the parking lot. The hole is now only slightly visible from Ridge Avenue north of Church Street, since construction fences have been erected. However, over the past years it has been more than an aesthetic nuisance; often standing water there posed problems as well, said Dennis Marino, manager of planning and zoning for the City.

George Halik of Booth Hansen, the architect for the project, said the proposed new building “follows the shape of” the building originally planned for the site. The proposed eight-story building will have 174 rental apartments, about 198 parking spaces, a cyber-café, a fitness center and a pool, he said. The construction materials will be yellow brick, clear glass, and steel or anodized aluminum as in the original project, he added.

Landscaping around the project will call attention to the site, said Ted Wolff of Wolff Landscape Architects. Plantings and planter boxes will bring a “pedestrian scale” to the project and serve as a buffer among the units, he said.

Justin Pelej, director of design and development for Focus, said there will be an “affordable component” in the project, but the details have not yet been worked out. “Preliminarily, we’re looking at eight units,” he said.

Mr. Marino said most everyone seems to be happy about the project. Mr. Halik, who lives in Evanston, said he is “so glad we’re doing something with this big hole.”

Some residents of the original Sienna condo project had voiced complaints several years ago about the long, steep parking-access ramp leading to the parking garage from Oak Avenue and the difficulty for some disabled residents to maneuver through the parking garage to the residents’ elevator

Mr. Pelej said Focus representatives have held four meetings with the board of the condominium association of the original Sienna project.

“We’re working in unison to remedy their concerns,” he said.

Mr. Marino said the project, which received unanimous approval at the Aug. 17 Site Plan and Appearance Review Committee meeting, will move in the next few weeks to the Planning and Development Committee and on to City Council for approval of an amended planned development for the site.

If City Council approves the project, construction could begin in November, said Mr. Pelej, and will take about a year to complete. When residents follow the yellow brick in the future, it will lead to something other than the hole.

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...