Friday, August 03, 2007

the changing face of downtown Evanston

The proposals for the Fountain Square block in downtown Evanston are generating a bit of controversy. No big surprise there.

The two competing proposals would raze most or all of the existing buildings on the block, replacing them with a high-rise mixed-use tower. I know that Evanston is hungry for more tax money, but so much high-rise development in recent years has radically changed the character of downtown Evanston.

I think that's a mixed bag. On the positive side, it is transit-oriented development, all within walking distance of the downtown CTA, Pace and Metra stations, and it supports a wider range of restaurants and entertainment venues. On the other hand, this is all expensive development, and it draws a lot more cars to downtown Evanston. Guess what, folks? They may be incorporating parking into these new structures, but the streets aren't getting any wider.

Transit and bicycle access save this increased density from sinking due to traffic jams. Whenever the city finally gets around to implementing its long-promised bicycle plan (striped bike lanes and marked shared routes), it will help. However, it may all implode if the state budget crisis is not resolved and the RTA does not receive the funding it needs to continue operating without severe service cuts. Under the latest doomsday scenario, fares would increase, purple line express service (from Howard to the Loop) and most Evanston bus service would be eliminated. Imagine what downtown Evanston could look like with a fraction of its current transit service and a new 500-foot tower? Not a pretty picture.

1 comment:

Al Iverson said...

Dumb question...who cares about the streets being wider? Doesn't that just push more people to take transit instead of driving?