Downtown Evanston luxury rental projects to move forward
Evanston City Council members approved two major high rise luxury apartment buildings planned for 1881 Oak Ave. and 1890 Maple Ave. | Arerial view rendering of the project, courtesy of Carroll Properties.
Updated: March 8, 2013 6:07AM
EVANSTON — Two large residential high-rise projects slated for downtown are moving forward again, nearly a half dozen years after they got caught in the economic downturn.
Evanston City Council members on Monday approved amended planned developments for 1881 Oak Ave. and 1890 Maple Ave.
Dating back to 2005, developer Robert King had planned to build 165 residential condominium units at the Oak address while Maple was planned as a mixed-use building with rental and commercial space.
The developer put the projects on hold in the economic downturn.
Under the amended proposal, King and partner Steve Fifield are planning a luxury rental development, footing the bill for infrastructure improvements and seeking no subsidy from the city.
The proposal calls for an increase in the number of units at the two buildings from 342 to no more than 368. Retail will be substantially lower, falling from 21,040 to 4,000 square feet. King’s original proposal called for a grocery store.
An excited King said Tuesday that the developers are hoping to begin construction in summer or fall of this year.
“We think it’s not only going to be a boon to the city overall, but certainly a boon to this particular part of downtown Evanston which has lacked any new development since the late 1980s,” the developer said.
In discussion Monday, Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st, raised concern about the proposal, particularly plans to change Emerson Street from two to four lanes to accommodate increased traffic from the development.
She also expressed concern about the removal of parking spaces along one side of Emerson and the switch to rental.
“I don’t believe there are that many new consumers for downtown,’’ Fiske said.
Some speakers have raised concern that the apartment emphasis is aimed at luring Northwestern University students.
Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl, meanwhile, said Northwestern had raised concern through her about the removal of ‘wet labs” as a result of the project.
While 1881 Oak is a vacant parcel, 1890 Maple is the site of a three-story office building constructed in 1989 that originally was supposed to have wet space capability.
The building has been vacant since King’s original planned development application for the project was approved in 2009.
Tisdahl said Northwestern officials emphasized the availability of “wet lab” space as “the best possible way to keep Northwestern technology businesses in town.”
The wet labs were part of a joint venture between Northwestern and the city on a research park in the 1980s. The venture is generally regarded as a failure, though it did set the stage for one of the city’s most successful economic development ventures – the movie theater retail project.
King, responding to the mayor at the meeting, said he was unaware of any wet labs in the vacant building.
Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th, who was on the council at the time of the research park development, reacted to the mayor’s last minute concerns.
“When (tax-exempt) Northwestern starts paying property taxes on its downtown office buildings, then it can start to tell us what to do with our buildings,” Rainy said.
Alderman Peter Braithwaite, 2nd, said King-Fifield’s projects would generate $1.2 million in new property taxes for the cash-strapped city. The project will also generate sales taxes through the high-rise tenants shopping at local markets, and also has the ability to create new jobs, he said.
Braithwaite said, “it seemed unfair and a bit unfortunate” to be calling on King at this juncture “how to develop his property.”