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Part 2 in a series
A recently withdrawn development proposal, called for demolishment of about half of the buildings along the west side of the 1700 block of Sherman Avenue in Evanston. On, Above and Behind Sherman Avenue, a series of profiles, gives readers the opportunity to learn more about the people and businesses that would have been displaced, and the buildings that would have disappeared.
Paul Janicki Architects, 1712 Sherman Ave.
Paul Janicki’s office is on the third floor of 1712 Sherman Avenue, at the end of a hallway, which reveals that it is part of an older building through details like the high ceilings and glass window transoms over the doors. The design of his office takes advantage of the building’s original interior elements, like big open rooms, 11-foot high ceilings, wide windows and maple floors. The open workspace includes multiple workstations and is big enough to include a tall glass and steel conservatory-like structure that is used as a conference room.
“We are restoration architects as well as doing new architecture, but we’re very invested in salvaging historic structures, which is what this building is” said Mr. Janicki. “That’s what we do. We work on historic structures and do new architecture, which is contextual. This is why we’re invested in being here, we’re invested in this space.”
Paul Janicki Architects has won lots of awards for its restoration work and many of its clients have landmark homes or homes that are located in historic districts. While this work is a specialty of theirs, they also work on old homes that don’t require approval of restoration or new construction. “We understand the architects that worked during those years,” he said “We research the original architect – reading about them and collecting their drawings, and try to do something that is sympathetic with what their point of view about the building was from the start.” They work on homes that date to 1880 and forward.
Talking about designs for new construction they’ve created, he referred to the new parking structure his firm has designed for the Evanston Public Library building downtown. “That building will harken to some of the stylistic tendencies of the existing downtown fabric. We’re not just tilting a piece of glass that has nothing to do with anything around it. We’re actually going to build something that blends in with the architecture, contextually. That’s call contextualism.”
“What makes this building [exterior] beautiful is that it’s a beautifully composed mix of limestone and brick,” he said. “. . . and it has a beautiful rhythm of solids to voids [the walls of stone – the solids, broken by the windows – the voids]. A lot of buildings now are just monolithic glass. There’s just no rhythm to that streetscape.” Mr. Janicki said that the beauty of the building is what attracted him to it, plus being in downtown Evanston.
Mr. Janicki said that the recent development proposal, that would have razed the building, included negative elements, like the height of the proposed building and the loss of storefronts. He, like many others, was in favor of having the Northlight Theatre return to Evanston, but said that it felt to him like the developers thought nobody would notice what would be lost. “Beyond the fact that you would lose artists and small business owners, you would lose storefronts, cafes and shops . . . urbanistically, it would have deadened the street,” Mr. Janicki said. “The City is so willing to let developers overstep zoning ordinances . . . it’s also not fair to people that have invested their life savings and bought houses here to raise a family, thinking, ‘This is my town’ and then five years later asking, ‘What happened to my town?’” He spoke about what it means when designers and developers actually live in the city they are working for, “This building and the Carlson Building were designed by the same architect, who lived in Evanston . . . That’s not the case in 99% of development now.” Mr. Janicki, who lives in downtown Evanston, said that when he works on a building he feels a sense of responsibility, “All my neighbors and friends will know that I designed it.”
Saville Flowers, 1712 Sherman Ave.
Mark Jones’ great-grandfather Don Saville, opened Saville Flowers 75 years ago in the same location in the 1712 Sherman Avenue building where it is today. Even the flower cooler is the same one they’ve had since the beginning, and it runs on the same compression-based system, located in the basement, as it always has.
Mr. Jones said that he remembers years of taking naps, after school, on a cot in that basement. He represents the fourth generation of his family to operate the business and grew up helping his grandfather, his mother and his aunt with various tasks at the shop. He said that he always missed school on Valentine’s Day, which is second only to Mother’s Day as the busiest day of the year.
He said that he grew up in the shop to a large extent, and has many fond memories, and that “We’re in the process of reintroducing Saville Flowers to Evanston and the rest of the North Shore. We’ve been renovating, adding new elements to the store and extending the shop out onto the sidewalk.” Mr. Jones said that he hopes that bringing plants and flowers out onto the walk will provide pedestrians with an enjoyable experience, “even if they’re just walking by. Of course, we want them to be drawn into the store, to come in and check us out.”
Mr. Jones said that his family would like to own the space in the building, “We’ve been here for so many years, and this shop, its location and the building it’s in are all part of our identity.” Regarding the recent proposed development, he said that the Evanston community could use more theatre, and that he is generally excited about development. “I understand that there’s progress that needs to happen in Evanston, and that’s what the developers were saying,” Mr. Jones said. “I’m a part of that, that’s what I’m trying to do with my business – develop it, but I’m also trying to honor the history of it as I do.”
Mr. Jones said that there is plenty of retail space that needs to be filled in Evanston, but that he didn’t want to see that happen at the expense of small businesses that have work hard to remain open and be a part of the community.
At the close of the interview, turning back to the flower arrangements scheduled for delivery by the close of the day, he said, “We’re a small business and responding to our customers is our top priority.”