Now that the rental apartment market seems to be picking up, Evanston is having some vigorous activity – for better or worse. It is better because more apartments mean more people and more vitality to the City. It is worse because the City has again lost control of the growth as far as quality of design is concerned.
Of the three large apartment complexes the best is the one on the long vacant eyesore portion of the Sienna development at Oak Street continuing to Green Bay Road. The original developer hoped for six buildings but the City Council cut it to four. Two buildings were finished when the project encountered major problems that stalled it for several years. Now Booth Hansen Architects are completing the site with one tower much larger. The result is the loss of the little charm possessed by the original design. The new tower is of darker brick, for no clear reason, has well-organized windows and well-designed balconies crowned by an all-glass top floor.
The major criticism is of the Green Bay Road facade with the ugly hanging balconies, particularly in comparison to the west elevation. The west elevation is seen by far fewer people than view the east, which fronts the major traffic pattern.
The apartment building at 1716 Central St. is being built on the vacant land where the Evanston theatres stood. They were closed in 2001 and demolished in 2007.
The complex has well-organized windows, no balconies, and its architect is not mentioned anywhere. It is stated nowhere on site what its purpose will be – perhaps offices, or a mix of office and apartments. From the existing building, there is no clue.
The name of the architect for the huge apartment complex at the corner of Chicago and Kedzie is also a mystery. But then, perhaps that is just as well, because the design is heavy-handed in spite of the doodads just below the roof. This reviewer found the building in poor taste and, in fact, a visual insult.
Just because a building is large does not mean it has to be gross. Evanston Place on Chicago Avenue between Clark and Church is a good example. In the interest of honest disclosure, that building was designed by the writer when still in his architectural career. Notwithstanding that fact, it is a building that has become an attractive part of the cityscape.
This reviewer is concerned with what will happen to the vacant property on the west side of Chicago Avenue just north of Davis Street. One hopes the City Council will come to its senses and finally ask the Mayor for a design advisory committee rather than continue to drop the ball.