Fountain Square tower approved

The Evanston City Council Monday voted 6-3 to give final approval to plans for a 35-story condominium tower at 708 Church St. on the Fountain Square block downtown.

The vote came after approval of one final amendment to the proposal, offered by Alderman Anjana Hansen, 9th Ward, at the suggestion of members of the Network for Evanston's Future.

That amendment would require developers to attain silver LEED status for the building under standards of the environmental program in effect when the building is actually constructed, rather than the standards as they exist now. It also gives the developers six months rather than three to complete the certification process once the building is completed.

Proponents of the amendment said the U.S. Green Building Council, which administers the LEED program, can only make a decision based on the standards in effect at the time the project is submitted for certification and that standards may change because of new developments in technology between now and then.

Several other amendments, all proposed by tower opponent Alderman Steve Bernstein, 4th Ward, were rejected.

Those included raising the contribution by the developer to restoring the Fountain Square plaza from $1 million to $2 million, requiring the developer to lease 35 parking spaces from the city in the Sherman Plaza garage and shortening the deadline for starting construction from 2013 to 2011.

Aldermen Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, and Elizabeth Tisdahl, 7th Ward, joined Bernstein in voting for those amendments and voting against the tower project itself.

Tower supporters, including Alderman Edmund Moran, 6th Ward, and Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, argued that the tower will greatly increase city tax revenue from the property.

Rainey also noted that there had been widespread opposition to other downtown development projects, including the Century Theatre development, which are now seen as being among the downtown area's greatest strengths.

The tower project was first unveiled by developers Tim Anderson and James Klutznick nearly two years ago as a 49-story development. As the project went through the city's review process it gradually shrank in height to the current 35-story design but still has roughly the same number of apartment units and square footage.

Related items

Tower photo gallery

Recap of council debate

Comments

The approval of the tower

The approval of the tower results from electing alderpersons who lack the abilities to understand economic development.

Much as Mr. Bush, our last president had good intentions but inadequate skills to successfully manage the country, the citizens of this community have elected officials who are similarly challenged.

So, be it.

Citizens should be prepared to see their real estate taxes rise as well as city services diminish or vanish.

C'est la vie, c'est la mort!

Fountain Square Tower

The Fountain Square site is the perfect site for a project like the one approved. However, the best scheme for that project was the original, SLENDER 49 story tower, particularly with the additional requirements requested by the Plan Commission, among which included the creation of a design committee to follow the project through construction documents to best assure the quality of the design. Height is a Boogey-Man in this town and leads residents to irrational judgements. The compromise in height (with no decrease in square footage) has forced the redistribution of the slender upper floors to the lower floors. This has created a "spare tire" massing that is much less attractive than the original scheme. It also serves to manifest some of the very negative characteristics the "height opponents" feared. This tower will have a much more prominent and ponderous effect at the street level and from further away, it will create far more apparent shadows, and create more wind at street level. Furthermore, the lack of design oversight by the PC will also guarantee a less attractive retail base at the street level.

Good news

The Tower vote is good news for Evanston. Despite some Aldermen's claims that the majority of residents were against the tower (as evidenced by the vocal anti-tower crowd at community meetings), there has never been any real evidence to this effect. Most residents I talked to were generally positive on the tower, and downtown development in general. Indeed, rare is the case that the "pro" crowd for any big development is as impassioned, or as noisy, as the "con" crowd. Thankfully enough Aldermen realized this to be the case here.

Even if the tower is never built, this decision signals that Evanston is back open for business. We are looking toward the future, and not trying to preserve a Mayberry ideal that was never really there. Kudos to the Council for recognizing that the rising tide of economic development truly does lift all boats.

finally

I heard the same stink raised when the 16 story State National Bank building was proposed. It would be the end of Evanston, blah blah blah. Unfortunately that Mies knockoff is pretty ugly but it certainly didn't destroy downtown Evanston. We need the taxes and a liverlier downtown is nice. When I was a kid, they rolled up the sidewalks at 5 p.m. and it was a ghost town.

Besides, the more I look at that block with a jaded eye, the uglier it gets. Broke Fountain Square is a wreck, I've always hated that hideous 5 story monstrosity abutting the square, and the more I look at that three story stone building (I've looked at it my entire life), the more I realize how architecturally dull and insignificant it is and how outdated the space and design is for stores, office space, etc. I have friends who disagree with me, but I think the new building will be a plus. It would be nice in some ways if downtown was as charming and bohemian as it was in the 1950s, but I wish that for a lot of things. The Central Street business district used to be charming and bohemian. Now it's yuppie potpourri HQ. Oh well, times change. Glad the city will be moving forward.

Photo-Op

Could you please post the photo of the proposed 'tower' again on this web-site? I would like also if you could cut-and-paste a picture of Air Force One flying in front of it. It's really easy and inexpensive (less than 300K) to do this and I think it would be a great gift for all Evanstonians. Better yet,disregard that last request. I will simply call the President myself and have him assign someone to do the flyover in person. I hear that he honors these requests.

Reply:
The tower photo gallery is here. The Photoshop work is up to you.
--Bill