1 SUBURBAN TRANSIT-ORIENTED DEVELOPMENT SPARKLES, ANOTHER'S JUST DULL — HERE'S WHY
Instead of creating a conventional building whose walls loom over the street, Chicago’s GREC Architects designed an L-shaped structure that frames the urban space of Chicago Avenue and is appropriately set back from less-busy, lower-scaled Main Street. At street level, the design meets Evanston’s requirement for a small setback, but above, the architects were free to shape stacks of glass window bays that sweep sculpturally across the facade. Light rather than plodding, the design is also respectful of its surroundings, with handsome brickwork that pays homage to the craft and texture of the building’s older neighbors.Step inside and you see that the saw-toothed glass wall isn’t just an empty flourish. The architects riff on it in the ceiling and walls of the lobby, even in the hallway signs that identify each apartment. From within the apartments, the bay windows combine with floor-to-ceiling glass to create a dramatic sense of expansiveness. Thermal, double-paned glass seals off train noise.With the exception of an unleased corner retail space that is a dull pocket in an otherwise lively ensemble, The Main is what transit-oriented development is supposed to be: urban and urbane; a mix of uses rather than a dormitory; not simply occupying a site but engaging its surroundings. The suburbs — and the city of Chicago, which has more than its share of mediocre transit-oriented design — need more buildings like this.