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The Evanston Land Use Commission on Jan. 26 approved a proposal that could ultimately bring a 10-story laboratory sciences building to the corner of Orrington Avenue, Clark Street and Elgin Road downtown.
By a vote of 6-3, the proposal next goes to the Planning & Development Committee of the City Council.
The development, at 1732-40 Orrington Ave., “aims to attract a broad range of science and technology users seeking research and development space in Evanston and the North Shore community,” according to a city filing, and replaces both a vacant Burger King franchise and a residential building.
Initial plans call for a lower-level parking garage with 35 spaces, first-floor lobby with space for retail or a restaurant, eight levels of business-use space, 10th-floor indoor and rooftop amenities and a rooftop penthouse for mechanicals.
The developers, Trammell Crow Co., whose local headquarters are in Oak Brook, opened a similar facility, the 14-story Fulton Labs, at 1375 W. Fulton St. in Chicago in 2021. Another Fulton Labs development at 400 N. Aberdeen St. in Chicago is scheduled to open in the first quarter of 2022. Trammell Crow also developed the Avidor, an Evanston residential building at 1727 Oak Ave.
Laboratory sciences facilities are increasingly popular, especially on the east and west coasts, said John Carlson of Trammell Crow, who added, “We’re seeing a large demand for users trying to keep science in Chicago.”
The site is currently zoned for the D2 Downtown Retail Core District. Trammell Crow, which is developing the project on spec, needs the site to be rezoned to D3 Downtown Core Development District. The firm is also asking for approval for a special use for a planned development and allowances for the project’s proposed 7.0 floor-area ratio, 149.5-foot height, modifications to the street’s ziggurat setback requirement and reduced number of parking spots. A city staff analysis said the building would normally need to provide 207 parking spaces. The firm is proposing to augment the 35-space basement parking by leasing 100 spaces at the city’s Church Street parking garage.
At the Jan. 26 meeting, held virtually, commissioners were largely in favor of the proposal, though some expressed reservations about the scale of the building.
Commissioner George Halik said, “I think Evanston should be excited to get this project.”
Commissioner Kiril Mirintchev called the plan “well-thought-out” but said he worried that the building might be too tall. He inquired about combining the mechanicals, currently planned for a penthouse, with amenity facilities on the 10th floor. Carlson said that such a combination, though making the structure shorter, would likely give a bulkier effect to the rooftop.
City officials have expressed concern that, given the project’s proximity to Northwestern University, it’s possible the property might ultimately be taken off the city’s tax rolls. As such, the developers must accept a covenant preventing them and future owners from seeking exemption from real estate taxes. Should future laws enable such an exemption automatically, owners would be required to pay an amount commensurate to real estate taxes to the City of Evanston, Evanston/Skokie School District 65 and Evanston Township High School District 202.
Resident Laurie Howick expressed concern about who the tenants would be, given that hazardous materials might be involved, a sentiment echoed by Commissioner Violetta Cullen.
Carlson said that “experts in the field” would be handling waste disposal. He also said that Trammell Crow would be seeking at least LEED Silver certification on the development; its first laboratory sciences building in Chicago achieved LEED Gold certification. Trammell Crow expects LEED Gold certification for its second Chicago laboratory building as well.
Resident Cecile McHugh objected to the scale of the project: “This building will tower over all the other buildings in the area,” she said.
She asked the commission for a continuance on the matter, requesting developers undertake traffic, wind and supply-and-demand studies. The commission turned down McHugh’s request.