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SKOKIE, IL-Village trustees in this suburb did an about-face Monday, unanimously approving a controversial mixed-use development on 6.4 acres at 9340-9408 N. Skokie Blvd., the former site of the Old Orchard Theater. The green light for the $50-million Siena at Old Orchard project came after local developers Scott Gendell and Seymour Taxman dropped 10 condominiums from their plans.

The project now includes 110 units in two six-story buildings just east of the Weber Park Golf Course, along with 24,190 sf of retail space that includes an existing Turtle Wax car wash operation, Portillo’s restaurant, Fifth Third Bank and four tenants in a third new retail building.

GenTax LLC’s $8-million acquisition appeared questionable earlier this year, when trustees rejected its project by a 5-2 vote, citing traffic, density and landscaping issues. Since then, GenTax LLC volunteered $1 million in concessions, Taxman says, including $220,000 on a new exterior for Turtle Wax’s building, $220,000 for a traffic light and $215,000 to buy a stretch of Emerson Street. Cutting 10 condominiums from the plans costs the developers $430,000, he adds.

“We’ve gone farther than we could economically afford to go,” Taxman told trustees.

GenTax LLC acquired the property in October, meeting the seller’s requirement to close within 30 days. “We took an enormous risk,” Gendell says. “But after all, this is a place where we’ve always felt comfortable.”

The project will be built between the Gateway Center and Fashion Square retail centers, the latter developed by Taxman. Taxman and Gendell also are redeveloping the historic Skokie Swift station on Dempster Street, where Starbucks is expected to open a coffee shop.

Before the village board’s turn-about, Taxman said negotiations with potential tenants were going less than full-bore pending the outcome of a new vote. Among the potential tenants include the Lettuce Entertain You restaurant group. “There’s a myriad of uses,” he says.

Taxman argued Siena at Old Orchard’s density would be less than two nearby condominium projects, Gross Point Towers and Barcelona. It also would be preferable to a 130,000-sf big box retail operation, an avenue that was rejected early in GenTax LLC’s planning process.

“The sight is an eyesore–a blight on Skokie Boulevard,” Gendell says.

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