Evanston deserves a skyscraper



While a 40 story skyscraper may not do much in Chicago, among the buildings in Evanston’s downtown neighborhood, 40 or even 30 stories would drastically reinvent Evanston’s skyline

Evanston deserves a tower it can one day be proud of. While the city already has a handful of reasonably tall buildings, designs for a significantly taller structure have been debated over for the past seven or so years. A downtown tower would do two things for Evanston: enrich Evanston’s skyline and encourage more commercial activity.

Evanston is unique for many reasons. It acts not only as a bridge between the big city of Chicago and its suburbs, but also as a city of its own and not as some side attraction for Chicago tourists. In a way, the community possesses both the aesthetics and functionality of an urban community and the character of a smaller town where citizens are more involved with one another.

If Evanston had a tower, it would serve as an anchor for the town in a number of ways: It would be visually recognizable and might even become iconic to the town. Located in the center of the downtown neighborhood, it would unite the building that are already standing and help to define the cluster of buildings as a skyline.

Plus, a better image attracts businesses and commercial activity. Linked to “that city to the south” by both the CTA and the Metra, downtown Evanston is undeniably accessible. Dave Allen, who teaches history at ETHS, described Evanston as destination community for many north shore residents. People from all over flock to Evanston to enjoy the shopping, restaurants, and Century theatre. During the summer, there are even more reasons for outsiders from both the north and south to come to Evanston, the main one being the beach.

Of course, there are opponents to the idea of a tower, and the idea of Evanston gaining recognizability. Mark Muenzer, who is the head developer of community planning and development in the city of Evanston, has stated that issues such as blocked views and wind tunnels could arise from having a tower. He also feels it is important for the tower to fit in rather than stand out among Evanston’s other towers. In that case, the tower would be just another building, and Evanston would be just another town. Evanston is more than “just another town.”

Throughout history, change has always been met with opposition. Both the Eiffel Tower and the buildings that stand on Michigan Avenue in Chicago today were opposed by their communities. In fact, many Evanston community members opposed the Century theatre project but came to embrace it after it was built.

The fears of constructing a tower are understandable, but the prospect of a dignified skyline, vibrant downtown and recognizable image are simply enticing. No matter what happens, Evanston will still be a great town five, ten, or twenty years into the future. Evanston may have a reputation as a progressive town that doesn’t want to change, but sometimes change should be embraced. Evanston deserves a tower that one day it can be proud of having downtown.