Demand for office space in Evanston is low, so low that developers of the vacant lot at Main Street and Chicago Avenue have scrapped plans for an office building on the site.
Instead, developer John O'Donnell, told a 3rd Ward meetin Thursday night, he now is planning a three-way mix of retail, office and residential units on the southeast corner of the intersection.
Initially, Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, said tax increment financing (TIF) funds would not be used for the project. But in an interview following the meeting, she said the developer could potentially seek TIF funds for just the office part of the building.
In late January, City Council voted 7-2 to create TIF district for the Chicago-Main shopping area with a projected $25 million budget, but the plan specified that the only private projects the TIF could aid would be office developments.
TIF funds are also expected to be used for a variety of public infrastructure improvements in the neighborhood.
O'Donnell said he's not sure whether he will seek TIF funds for the single floor of office space proposed in the new plan.
Top: The vacant lot at Chicago Avenue and Main Street that's the proposed site of the new development. Above: A rendering of the new design for the site, looking east on Main Street.
The plan calls for a 100-foot tall, nine story building with about 158,000 square feet of floor area above ground.
Retail space, which O'Donnell says will likely be occupied by a small bank branch and fast casual dining establishment, will be located on the first floor, with office space and shared amenities on the second floor.
The building would have 112 residential units on levels three through nine and 73 underground parking spaces.
O'Donnell said the proposed project would cost about $42 million.
The dozens of residents in attendance at the meeting voiced several concerns regarding the proposal.
Some were concerned that, with the new AMLI building a block away, there would not be enough demand to fill the proposed units.
But both Wynne and O'Donnell were confident that the units be rented.
Wynne said between 2008 and 2012, there was "no residential construction whatsoever" due to the financial crash.
A Google Map view looking north on Chicago Avenue to the north side of Main Street where two large condo developments were built before the housing market collapse. View Larger Map
"We have a plan commission that has not been busy at all for four years, and now we want them to get busy again," she said.
Other residents were concerned that 73 parking spots would not adequately serve a building with 112 units.
O'Donnell said the project would be targeted to young families and professionals, a demographic that, increasingly, is relying less on cars and more on public transit. He also noted the site's close proximity to both the Metra and CTA lines.
Wynne said the final number of parking spaces would be debated during the building application process.
Other concerns focused on congestion and visibility issues in the alley behind the site. Wynne said the city's traffic department would examine that.
Both Wynne and O'Donnell emphasized that the project is in the very early stages, and many things are subject to change, especially when resident feedback is taken into account. "We've only been at this for 60 days," O'Donnell said.
Residents in attendance were asked to fill out forms with their comments and concerns about the project.
"My goal tonight was to hear from all of you and have [the developers] hear from all of you," Wynne said.
O'Donnell said that if the project wins city approval, construction could begin early next year, with completion in spring 2015.