Real Estate

GW Properties Plans 25-Story, 333-Unit Tower in Downtown Evanston

GW Properties plans 25-story tower with 333 units, potentially Evanston's tallest building, amid zoning challenges.

By Doug Elli

7/10, 11:33 EDT
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Key Takeaway

  • GW Properties plans a 25-story residential tower with 333 units in downtown Evanston, potentially the tallest building in the city.
  • The project involves demolishing part of Church Street Plaza, currently home to retail and entertainment tenants including an AMC theater.
  • Redevelopment faces zoning challenges but may benefit from city officials' support for residential conversions amid high office vacancy rates.

A New Vision for Evanston's Skyline

A significant transformation is on the horizon for Evanston, Illinois, as Chicago-based developer GW Properties explores the redevelopment of Church Street Plaza. The proposed project, which includes the potential teardown of existing structures to make way for a 25-story residential tower, aims to reshape the city's skyline. This ambitious plan, still in its preliminary stages, would introduce 333 residential units, potentially making it the tallest building in Evanston, surpassing the 22-floor Orrington Plaza. The redevelopment reflects a broader trend of urban renewal and adaptation to changing market demands.

The Details of the Proposal

GW Properties' initial zoning analysis application outlines a comprehensive redevelopment plan for Church Street Plaza, located at 900-950 Church Street. The proposal includes demolishing part of the existing complex, which currently houses retail and entertainment tenants, including an AMC theater. The new 25-story tower would feature 333 residential units, addressing the high demand for housing in the area. This project comes three years after GW Properties acquired the property and about a year after it was listed for sale. The developer's co-principal, Mitch Goltz, emphasized that this is an early exploration of possibilities, given the complex zoning regulations in place.

Navigating Zoning Challenges

The redevelopment of Church Street Plaza is complicated by its location within Evanston's "Research Park" zoning district, established 40 years ago to promote research and advanced technology activities near Northwestern University. However, the city's vision for a tech center has not materialized, and the zoning designation has become a hurdle for redevelopment. GW Properties will need to navigate these legacy zoning issues while aligning with the city's strategic plan, Envision Evanston 2045. The plan's focus on residential conversions amid high office vacancy rates could work in the developer's favor, as city officials and constituents have shown support for such initiatives.

Broader Implications for Urban Development

The proposed redevelopment of Church Street Plaza is part of a larger trend of urban renewal and adaptation in response to evolving market conditions. Similar projects are underway in Chicago, such as Georgetown Company's plan to replace a bank branch with a 37-story apartment tower on North Clybourn Avenue and Akara Partners' conversion of River North apartments to condos. These developments highlight the shifting dynamics in urban real estate, driven by factors such as high office vacancy rates, changing residential preferences, and the need for more housing options. The success of these projects could set a precedent for future urban redevelopment initiatives.

Developer's Perspective and Market Outlook

From the perspective of GW Properties, the redevelopment of Church Street Plaza represents an opportunity to revitalize a key area in downtown Evanston. The project aligns with broader market trends, such as the increasing demand for residential units in urban centers and the challenges posed by outdated zoning regulations. By addressing these issues and working closely with city officials, GW Properties aims to create a development that meets the needs of the community while contributing to the city's growth. The project's success could also signal a positive outlook for similar urban redevelopment efforts in the region.

Management Quotes

  • Mitch Goltz, co-principal of GW Properties:

    "This is a very preliminary and early exploration of some possibilities on the property given the complex underlying zoning."