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Developers pull the plug on Evanston’s Northlight Theatre tower

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It’s the end of the line for this controversial 37-story proposal


For the second time in as many months, a high-rise proposed for downtown Evanston will move no further. On Thursday, developers announced a decision to withdraw their plans for a 37-story tower slated for the 1700 block of Sherman Avenue.

The Skidmore, Owings & Merrill-designed building would have been Evanston’s tallest, rising to a height of nearly 400 feet. Its mixed-use programming had called for two new performance spaces for Skokie-based Northlight Theatre, a restaurant, 152 rental apartments, 153 hotel rooms, and parking for 258 vehicles.

Some of the older buildings on the 1700 block of Sherman Avenue that faced demolition.
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While many Evanstonians were generally optimistic about bringing a new cultural and artistic destination to downtown, the sheer size of the proposal plus the prospect of demolishing a number of attractive older buildings drew mixed reactions from both residents and officials.

In a joint statement reported by the Chicago Sun-Times, Northlight Theatre, Farpoint Development, and McLaurin Development diplomatically acknowledged their supporters, opponents, and a desire to avoid further dividing the community on the issue:

“After numerous town hall and community meetings in the last year, Northlight has heard time and again the vast majority of residents express great enthusiasm for the theatre’s return to Evanston. We also have heard support for our relocation from aldermen.

Our intention, with the developers and architects, was always to listen to the community to better understand the issues surrounding the proposed site before we entered into the formal review process with the city. We have heard both support—and concerns—for the proposed project.

After discussions amongst Northlight, Farpoint and McLaurin, we now feel that to move forward, given that the site has become a source of contention, would serve to perpetuate a divisive issue for city leaders and residents in a time of continuing debate about the vision and future of downtown Evanston.”

The demise of 1700 Sherman Avenue comes less than six weeks after a 33-story residential tower proposed for nearby 601 Davis Street was rejected by Evanston aldermen before even reaching the city council for a vote.

Despite the recent trend, it hasn’t been entirely bad news for Evanston’s high-rise developers. In November, the council approved a 15-story, 273-unit apartment project at 1450 Sherman Avenue.

Other tall buildings in the works include a 25-story tower at 1621 Chicago Avenue, a 14-story office building at 1720 Chicago Avenue, and a 17-story age-restricted development at 1727 Oak Avenue.