Wilmette-based developer pledges continued cooperation on Trader Joe’s plan
Terraco president and CEO Scott Gendell answers questions about the Trader Joe's project at the city Plan Commission's first hearing on the issue Wednesday night. (Bob Seidenberg\Staff Writer)
Updated: August 20, 2012 6:28AM
EVANSTON — Semi-trailers and other trucks won’t be using an alley that runs behind residents’ homes to make deliveries to Trader Joe’s store when it opens, under a resolution reached between neighbors and the developer before July 11’s Plan Commission hearing.
Alderman Melissa A. Wynne, 3rd Ward, brought together residents and the developer, Scott Gendell, president and CEO of Wilmette-based Terraco, before the Plan Commission hearing on Trader Joe’s request for a planned development to erect a new store at 1211 Chicago Ave.
City officials and residents have reacted enthusiastically to the news the choosy company had agreed to make Evanston its 14th store in Illinois.
But the Plan Commission hearing offered the first detailed look at the complex planned development that calls for the demolition of several properties, including the building that once housed a Blockbuster Video store.
Under the resolution, Gendell said Trader Joe’s would make deliveries without using the alley, instead clearing a parking aisle in the store lot that will allow trucks to maneuver.
Pat Mulhern, representing neighbors, thanked Wynne and Gendell for working to resolve the issue.
“Our alley is already one of the busiest alleys,” he told commission members. “We’ve got a three car garage that backs up to it. I can tell you it’s an adventure getting (out of the garage). Then when you get out of the garage, it’s an adventure getting out of the alley.”
Neighbors are pressing the developer and city officials to make other changes. The window for deliveries, 6 a.m. to 11 p.m., “is just too big,” Mulhern said.
Mulhern also said pedestrian safety must be addressed on Chicago Avenue. Even with a city pedestrian-safety crosswalk south of the proposed store, those on foot sometimes “have to harass vehicles to stop,” he said.
Commission members added some concerns of their own. Gendell was questioned about available parking in the development and a decision to make the parking spaces perpendicular rather than diagonal. That would force shoppers “to square up” their cars to park, observed commission member Stuart Opdycke.
Commission member Seth Freeman asked whether Trader Joe’s, considering the city’s investment in the project, would make parking available after 9 p.m.
“I think many of us going to that neighborhood, especially going to Union (Pizzeria) and (Evanston) SPACE, find parking very difficult,” Freeman said.
Wynne, who heads up the city’s Transportation/Parking Commission, indicated city officials had pressed the point but were unable to get Trader Joe’s to bend.
“We’ve reached what we have reached,” she said.
Commission members have scheduled a follow-up hearing for Aug. 8. In the meantime, Wynne said the city would try to bring residents and the developer together to see if they could work out other issues.
One of the criteria for Planned Unit Development approval is that the project not have an overall negative impact on the area.
Gendell said Wednesday’s airing of issues was positive.
“We’re hearing some things that I know we have to address,” he said. “We’re willing to work with the commissioners and the residents to make the development work.
“There are certain parameters that are beyond our control,’’ however, he said, alluding to Trader Joe’s behind-the-scenes presence. “We’ll be frank with you. When we hit a roadblock, you’ll just have to make a decision whether the juice is worth the squeeze.”