New Bait and Switch by 708 Church Developers

The Round Table just posted a story (March 6) revealing that two days after the P&D meeting where the 708 Church proposal was approved, developers told the City they need until December 31, 2013 to obtain a building permit and another 30 months for construction.  Under this timetable, the completion date of the project would be mid-2016.
Mr. Anderson clearly told P&D on March 3 that he expected the building to be fully occupied by 2014.
In developers' March 5 letter to the City, they disingenuously stated that the "question was called" at P&D before they had a chance to bring up the fact that they'd need a four year extension to get a building permit.  Under the Zoning Code, developers have one year from the time the PD ordinance is approved to the date on which they must have a building permit.
Since the 708 Church developers have succeeded in receiving massive variances from existing zoning, surely they think Council will grant them a 400% increase in the length of time they will have to get a building permit.  As Steve Bernstein stated on March 3, "Zoning's for sale [here in Evanston]."


In addition to greatly reducing the TIF increment they so proudly paraded before the Council ($20 million -- which has now decreased in value overnight to about $5 million or even less if you count the negative revenue caused by the delay of the project), Evanston taxpayers should learn the real economic impacts of the plan the current Council is forcing on the City.
The developer has promised a $1 million dollar contribution to Fountain Square.  Wonderful!  When can we start?  Oh, did we forget to tell you that we won't give you any money until we get our occupancy permits from the City (which will be mid-2016 at the earliest).  Gee, I wonder if any economists could wager a guess on what a million dollars will be worth in 2016.
The developer has told us that the "required" contribution to affordable housing is a public benefit.  First of all, by the very "Plan" that the Council approved last month, the mandated contribution is not a benefit.  Care to guess when Evanston will get the required money??  Do I hear sometime in 2016 or later?  What a deal!
What about the vacant storefronts we currently have in the 708 building and surrounding storefronts?  Does anyone really think that a retailer is going to lease space on a short-term (6 to 12 month lease) knowing that the space is headed for demolition - after the developer applies for building permits at the end of 2013.  A retailer would have to be crazy to sink money and improvements into a location at ground zero.
What about the currently available office space in 708.  Will people want to move in on a month to month basis?  Would you put your money in this location?  What will happen as more office space becomes vacant?
The developers have a great plan.  As space remains vacant and more vacancies open up, they will appeal to the assessor and have the land valuation decreased.  This will mean even less tax revenue for Evanston.
Citizens have been telling the Council for YEARS that this project is the wrong project for Evanston.  However, it appears that the only one the Council wants to listen to is a bunch of greedy developers who have the best interests of only their wallets at heart.
So what if the famous "central core" of downtown sits vacant for 5-10 years.  Good job Council!  You've really helped the "economic engine" of Evanston.   Anything else you want to do before you leave office??  This was a bad project to begin with.  If Council grants a five year extension (a major variation to the project which should send it back to the City as a new project) they are increasing the probability that we will have vacant storefronts in the center of downtown for years to come.
How about doing the right thing for once?  Reject the developers request for a five year extension simply to "apply" for a building permit.  Do you really believe that the developers simply "forgot" to discuss this change on March 3??  The way their attorney tells it, things were getting approved so quickly that they lost track of time and didn't get to drop the "timing" bomb.