708 Church at Fountain Square. When the Focus Development/Klutznick Development Co. proposed a 35-story mixed-use residential development in downtown Evanston, they expected substantial opposition from neighboring and community residents. The development team needed to get approval from both the Plan Commission (as a planned unit development) and City Council. At the same time, the City of Evanston was working on a new downtown plan which threatened to reduce allowable heights and densities.
The Challenge: Win approval for the project under the existing development rights and downtown plan.
Building Coalitions: To drive approval of the project through several public bodies, we built support from both the local business community, architects and urban planners, and residents who understood the benefits of environmentally-sustainable communities and transit-oriented development. We monitored and responded to social media from those with opposing views by employing fact-sheets and “truth-telling squads” which counteracted the sometimes-hostile atmosphere.
Effective Communication: We wrote and delivered public testimony at hearings, met directly with elected officials, strengthened the economic arguments for the project, and authored a study which found that independent retail and restaurant businesses were more prevalent and often more successful than national chains in large mixed-use projects. We worked closely with the legal team and developer to craft the message.
The Result: The project won approval of both the Plan Commission and City Council under the existing development envelope.