Council OKs Albion high-rise, outrages foes

Albion opponents shouted insults at aldermen after the vote.

Evanston aldermen voted 5-4 Monday night to approve the 15-story Albion Residential planned development at 1450 Sherman Ave.

The vote came after months of discussion and several rounds of modifications to the plan.

But none of the changes appeared to bring any satisfaction to a group of opponents. They repeatedly interrupted aldermanic discussion of the development Monday and hurled insults at aldermen after the vote.

A rendering of the final design for the project as approved by the City Council.

Some opponents pledged to work to defeat the incumbent aldermen at the next election in 2021, although it appeared that most of the opponents are residents of wards whose aldermen voted against the development.

Melissa Wynne.

Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, who voted to reject the Albion plan, said, "The vitriol from opponents is out of proportion to what this building is doing in the downtown."

The building is too big, she said, and too dense and doesn't provide an appropriate transition in height from the downtown core to surrounding low-rise neighborhoods.

But she praised Andrew Yule, who led the Albion project team, saying he has worked very hard to respond to community concerns "and has been remarkably patient."

Alderman Cicely Fleming, 9th Ward, who also voted against Albion, said said it was disheartening to hear the baseless claims made by some opponents. "To hear that this building is the epitome of white supremacy doesn't make sense," she said.

Albion has agreed to spend roughly twice what's required by the city's inclusionary housing ordinance to provide 15 affordable units in the 273-unit rental development. But some opponents appeared to believe that any new market-rate housing was too much.

Don Wilson.

Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, who voted for the development, suggested opponents had forgotten what they'd been taught in high school economics -- that the city needs to increase the supply of housing if it's to slow demand-driven increases in rents.

While foes suggeted Evanston should follow the example of Boulder, Colorado, which has enacted a temporary ban on buildings taller than 40-feet, Wilson said that such severe growth limits were driving out minority residents and driving up the cost of housing there.

A spokesman for Albion said the firm hopes to start construction on the building by the middle of next year.

An owner of Tommy Nevin's Pub, one of the restaurants on the site of the new development, told aldermen during public comment that, because of declining business, the restaurant would close next week, regardless of the outcome of Monday's vote.

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Comments

Typical of protesters

As usual preservationist, opponents of any business/building, safe street lighting, come out in their usual protests.
They would protest if a sandwich was made with butter on the 'wrong side.' They have made them laughing stocks---you can always predict what they wiil do---and if they ever come up with a real issue, the public will ignore what they say.

if you think traffic has become a problem in Evanston just wait

Anybody who drives from North Evanston, south after 3 pm has experienced traffic issues, last week while attempting to go from Whole Foods north to Davis street I experienced some of the worst traffic I've experienced in Evanston in my18 years of living here. 37 minutes to go about 2 miles! Not to get into the traffic problems on Emerson (between McCormick and Ridge) or traffic heading east on Oakton. This city seems happy to build and build while not paying attention to traffic and parking issues. Why to alderman seem reluctant to address these 'Quality of life' issues that are affected by this building boom? Furthermore, I have yet to see a real estate tax decrease (alderman promised) with all these new Evanston residents.

This isn't Schaumburg

Have you considered that there is a new,much bigger Whole Foods on Green Bay Road with a good amount of parking that isn’t built in a high density area? This isn’t Levitt Town or Schaumburg. Stop assuming that you should move through this city like you do through an expressway.

Congestion will only get worse

And the south-bound driving is getting worse with the changes on Sherman from Church down to Davis and Grove, with the insane reconfiguring of the Davis/Sherman/Orrington intersection. Not only is the new design completely counter-intuitive, it was apparently done on purpose to slow drivers down. Adding a mammoth building a block south of there, and the congestion will only get worse.

“Slow drivers down.” Perhaps

“Slow drivers down.” Perhaps the higher amount of pedestrians downtown has something to do with that......

Afternoons in Paradise

Evanston parents should start researching the Dutch bikes with the nice bins on the front for progeny and goods. Ultimately getting around town by minivan in the late afternoons for sports, music lessons, shopping, drs appointments etc will be a spectacular hassle. And good luck parking that van in front of the Wine Goddess! Fortunately Binny's -- when you finally get there -- should have a generous number of spots. You'll want some extra booze, too, after the nightmare schlepping across town.

Crazy is the new orange

Maybe there is too much lead in the city's water because I'm seeing crazy all over the place.

First, Albion opponents claim the project is not affordable housing but the "epitome of white supremacy." Yes peeps, we have another white supremacist remark in our midst. There is a cadre of activists in Evanston who yell racism and white supremacy against any object of their ire. This week it’s a developer. Next week it could be the police department again. Soon perhaps, they will launch their racial justice crusade against the makers of Girl Scout cookies. The developer is a for profit company using private money, not tax dollars, to build the project. They are not in the business of providing “affordable housing,” which means artificially low rent.

Second, our good alderman Wilson decided to reason with these social justice warriors and give them a quick lesson in race economics. He instructed the threatening group of activists that severe growth limits on new buildings, especially tall buildings, were driving out minority residents in Boulder,Co. Yes, his argument was that limiting the construction of new buildings in Boulder drove out minorities, suggesting new buildings will keep minorities in town. His comment seemed to ignore the fact that there are poor whites. Were they driven out by Boulder’s growth limits? Wilson fell into the trap of generalizing a particular racial group and equating them with low income.

The Albion foes pointed to Boulder’s temporary ban on the construction of buildings more than 40 feet and charged Evanston follow suit. Boulder does have an exemption, though. Permission to construct a building more than 40 feet would be given to developers who dedicate at least 40 percent of their floor area to permanently affordable housing. 40 percent!! Of course, no developer took that deal.

Another link provided in this story is an opinion piece from Randall O’Toole of the Independence Institute who argues that “to end discrimination against blacks and other low-income minorities, states and cities must repeal their growth-management laws, growth boundaries, and other land-use rules that make housing unaffordable.” Discrimination is a serious charge. Is there a specific clause in these growth limit policies that “discriminate” people based on race? Well of course, O’Toole doesn’t explain that because there is no explanation. These policies might affect poor peeps but there’s no evidence the policies are designed to affect only a particular racial group. Isn’t O’Toole aware that most Americans living in poverty today have white skin?

There seems to be a subtle unchallenged belief in most private and public institutions that race is the center of our existence in this great experiment we call America. And one race in this belief is immune to poor policies and the consequences of economic decisions and thus omitted or forgotten in discussions of economic remedies.  Is that What President Trump meant when he said he will help “the forgotten man?” Maybe this is why so many liberals entrenched in racial justice causes call President Trump a racist. He has the audacity to challenge the belief that only people of a certain race are victims in the daily struggles we all experience to varying degrees.  

The Council has seen firsthand the cancerous cause of out-of-control racial justice that demonizes anyone who disagrees with them. The angry threatening vitriolic insults were hurled at councilmen as if they were verbal Molotov cocktails. It’s a “Resistance.” We see it everywhere now. Crazy is the new orange.

Really, Anonymous Al

Last time I checked, 9% of whites in the country were living poverty, compared with 22% of POC. Also, until very recently, there were laws that prevented POC from buying property in less expensive neighborhoods, from obtaining loans, and from accruing value in the property they were “allowed” by whites to buy. So, yes, until we rectify the situation white people created, we as a moral society are in the business of insuring affordable housing exists. Only people who have never experienced racism say none exists. It ALWAYS exists.

Yes really

There are more whites living in poverty than non whites. I am not talking about percentages based on population. I am talking about real people - living, breathing, walking among us.

These laws you speak of happened 50 years ago. I don't consider that recent. Johnson's Great Society poured billions into the inner cities and billions more over the decades were afforded specifically toward blacks in forms of grants, loans, goverment programs and scholarships. This is not to mention all of the affirmative actions programs ingrained in some form in just about every American institution, including American universities where even today college applicants get extra points simply based on their race.

We do agree that racism will always exist. It's basic human behaviour to be comfortable and loyal in your own perceived group and uncomfortable in outside groups. In this framework there will always be some radicals in a group that hate, dislike, believe their group is inferior, superior or just don't want to be around outside groups for whatever reason. These kind of folks exist in every racial group. 

But any suggestion that the Albion high rise project in Evanston is a symbol of white supremacy or  that growth managment laws is discriminatory toward blacks and other minority groups is not just ludicrous, it's racism.

Oh, I have experienced racism, even recently. I was on the receiving end.

9% of whites as an absolute

9% of whites as an absolute number is larger than 22% of POC... but that is on a national scale.. what matters is what the demographics of poverty are in Evanston itself.  Which I think we find and I do not have exact numbers is largerly skewed to having more poverty among African Americans and hence the discussion being along racial lines....

.... 

I support the Albion project

Thank you to the Alderman who supported the Albion project.

I appreciate the NIMBY's concerns but they should be more civil in expressing their disappointment and disagreement. Reasonable people should agree to disagree.

Millenial housing interests are different from many people who protested against Albion.

There is a growing trend towards increased urbanization and Evanston is well positioned to benefit. Evanston has excellent access to public transportation. Drive out to Barrington this weekend and you'll understand.

Lastly, Evanston needs more people to shop at local stores and expand our tax base.

Great Choice, Aldermen

Proud liberal here - very happy that this project was approved.

Downtown Evanston is one of the few suburban downtowns in America blessed with the level of both walkability, and public transportation that we are fortunate enough to have. There should absolutely be increased density in this part of our city, because the conditions are perfect for it. New units = new residents, and new residents = new tax dollars and new business for local merchants and restaurants. And as Bill has aptly pointed out, only by increasing the property tax base (which this project does) can we slow the rise of everybody else's property taxes, which will help keep Evanston diverse and affordable.

Even if most folks who live here are "transient" in the sense that they are students or young professionals, a percentage of them will almost certainly end up staying here, buying homes, and becoming woven into the fabric of our community. This is how communities stay vibrant and healthy. I can't for the life of me understand why people got so worked up about this; if somebody on the other side could reply with an explanation I'd genuinely appreciate it.

EvanstonNow and its influence on views of [potential] residents

EvanstonNow is great to have around and inform citizens of what is going on.

But there is a downside---our problems and dirty laundry are visible probably like no community outside of Chicago. Of course the Trib and SunTimes keep us aware of all of Chicago's problems.

I'm not aware of other communities [northern illinois at least] having a resource like EvanstonNow.

Evanston Review and surrounding weeklys cover area news and for years not much about Evanston. The RoundTable only.comes out every two weeks--print but not much additional online.

Thus EvanstonNow is the main source of news and opinion. If I was someone not living here and read what goes on, I'd think more than twice about moving here. NU and public transportation are probably the largest [by far] draws. Other towns may have a many [proportional] problems/issues but residents and prospects have far fewer ways of hearing about them.

The insults getting hurled

The insults getting hurled last night were really embarrassing to watch. The opponents acted as if a sewage plant or strip mine was going on that site.

Evanston is not a gated community

Completely agree with Ald. Wilson's high school econ analysis. Affordable housing set asides are great for a handful of lucky renters, but not the vast majority of working and middle class residents. If Evanston is to remain accessible to anyone other than the very wealthy and the handful of lucky voucher recipients, the supply of housing must be allowed to keep up with demand. I'm glad this was approved, but disheartened that 4 Aldermen sided with a handful of vocal objectors and their incumbent landlord allies to almost scuttle the project.

What?

What it is - is a building on STILTS about to happen.  Not to mention the unsafe ground below, according to the owner of the pub that is moving.

Agree completely

I agree completely. I really felt bad for the developer, who has had to sit there and listen to people saying or implying he is racist more than once. He looked visibly upset. I suspect the opponents don't give a crap about that though.  I understand some developers are slimy, but these guys seem reasonable. Not all developers are evil. We are going to need developers unless we want to live in huts.

The Albion building

I agree with Alderman Wynn’s comments re the Albion project: too big, and dense for transition to a residential area.  It is also, I believe, poor design!  The building looks awkward and ugly and as though a massive space ship had landed on a row of brick buildings not strong enough to support its weight!  Were the building to bring a major benefit to our town , like the proposed Northlight building, which I find beautiful, by the way, maybe it could be tolerated.  But it does not.  How eager ARE we for huge new structures in our downtown?  Evanston is a beautiful place, overall.  Our downtown is marginal in appearance, but certainly the Albion will be no attractive addition, but , in fact, the very opposite.  And since i’m bringing up the looks of our downtown,can’t we do better with our holiday lighting and decorating?!  And what’s the plan for the rubble that was once Fountain Square ?

Letter written this day to the City Council

Letter written this day to the City Council,

Mr. Mayor and Aldermanic Council Members,

It was truly disheartening to be present for the cursory commentary and final approval vote to allow the Albion Proposal for 1450 Sherman Avenue to proceed.  Disheartening in the face of the outright dismissal of the Zoning Code, the massive presentation of the building on Sherman Avenue, the distorted tenant profile, and all the poignant protest of over 60 citizens, through several meetings.

Disheartening to look ahead to the chaos that will surely ensue with the onrush of oversize proposals that will certainly follow now that the Council has made this statement: There is no Evanston zoning code.

I apologize for what may have seemed like vitriol from those of us deeply opposed; but the Council should not be surprised given the magnitude of the issue, the valid reasoned outcry, the little reasoned discussion and finally to be confronted with stonewall silence from aldermen who through two meetings cannot produce even a single word to support their foregone acquiescence.

Truly astonishing was the admission that the Council has now provided the developers with a new mechanism to abuse the approval process: the “PUBLIC BENEFITS.”

First noting that Public Benefits which directly improve the development site itself do not actually comprise a “Public Benefit,” the Aldermen proceeded to divulge that through private meetings with the developer they had secured “Public Benefits” that were special to them; and thus the expressed rationale for their otherwise unconsidered Yes vote. 

I envision the developer community this day preparing lists of special items to curry favor with the Aldermen. This revelation in itself should disqualify and nullify this approval “vote.”   Real reasoned review should ensue.

Sincerely,

Greg Williams


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