Downtown Evanston, which has truly transformed and blossomed since the last boom cycle of the early 2000s, has just witnessed the unveiling of its next major proposal. The project, as recently presented to city officials, will be a 27-story rental apartment building with 217 units and 176 parking spaces. The proposal comes from Chicago-based Vermilion Development, a company that is also involved with the Harper Court development in Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood. The proposed tower will be situated on the north side of Davis Street, in the middle of the block between Chicago and Orrington Avenues and just to the east of Fountain Square. The site is currently a vacant lot and a large stand-alone vehicular drive-through for Chase Bank, located in the neighboring tower to the west. An existing two-story building on the northwest corner of Chicago and Davis is also included in the plan and would be preserved as part of the project. Known as the University Building, the existing structure would have its ground floor lobby connected to the new tower as well as a reconfiguration of the interior spaces, but would otherwise remain untouched.
To move forward, the bank's drive-through would be demolished, but later reestablished in the base of the new tower. In an effort to provide a better pedestrian experience, the drive-through will be largely out of view from pedestrians passing by along the sidewalk. The curb cut for the existing drive through would remain, but would greatly shrink in size from the current seven lanes of vehicles entering and leaving exclusively from Davis Street. In the new plan, the vehicles would still enter from Davis street, but would do so through a one lane wide driveway sandwiched between to new retail spaces. The driveway would then turn westward under the tower and widen into two lanes for the ATMs positioned near the driveway exit along an existing alley.
The lowest floors of the proposed building call for a rather featureless parking podium which would then be topped with residential floors in a tower setback towards the northern property line. The setback on the podium roof would allow for an amenity deck and outdoor pool with southern exposure. Access for the building's parking garage would be from the adjacent alley as well, with all vehicles entering an internal ramp positioned at the northwest corner of the site.
The neighboring 22-story Chase Bank tower is Evanston's tallest building, which stands at 277 feet. The next tallest building, the-25 story Sherman Plaza just to the west, is also nearly the same exact height, topping out at just above 276 feet. This project, as proposed, would top out at 280 feet, potentially making it the tallest building in Evanston depending on the specifications of a finalized design. The location right dead center in the heart of downtown Evanston would also reinforce the area surrounding Fountain Square as the focal point of the Evanston skyline, although with three towers of the same visual height, it could resemble more of a plateau. Opposition to tall structures has been common with any downtown projects needing zoning variances, and as such, many elements of the design, including the height and floor count could change as this project moves through the approval process.
— Shawn Ursini