Plan Commission delays 831 Emerson vote

A rendering of the current design for the 831 Emerson site.

Evanston's Plan Commission this evening postponed a vote on a proposed nine-story apartment building at 831 Emerson St. after a resident of the Sherman Gardens complex across the street requested the delay.

Susan Wolin, of 1864 Sherman Ave., said she'd only heard about the current proposal for the property at a ward meeting at the Evanston Public Library Tuesday evening and was concerned about the process to be used for removing contaminated soil from the site, as well as potentially other issues she wasn't ready to specify.

Susan Wolin.

The new plans were first reported by Evanston Now on Jan. 16. The plans were approved by city staff at a meeting on March 2.

Under Plan Commission rules, residents within 1,000 feet of a proposed development have the right to request one postponement of action on a project to give them more time to gather information to support their objections.

However, in a dramatic turnabout from the reception of the previous plan for the site -- which was opposed a large number of Sherman Gardens residents -- the new plan drew praise from Diane Petersmark of the Sherman Gardens co-op board.

Petersmark said Sherman Gardens residents would have loved to have had the site donated to the city and turned into a park, "but that's not realistic."

She said she and the other members of the co-op board "are very pleased with the new proposal and the willingness of the developer and city staff to work with us on our questions and problems. We feel they came to a very acceptable compromise."

The previous proposal, rejected by the City Council last February, had drawn the neighbors' ire because it called for renting apartments by the bedroom, largely to students, and because portions of the structure, as initially proposed, would have been 14 stories tall.

The developers say the new plan is designed to appeal to a mix of young professionals and young families, that they won't be renting units by the bedroom and that they've brought in a manager of conventional apartment projects, The Habitat Company, to run the property.

The hearing on the project is now scheduled to resume at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, March 22, at the Civic Center.

Tim Anderson, CEO of Focus Development, said the project will bring in about $800,000 a year in new property tax revenue for local taxing bodies and will provide a $2.4 million contribution to the city's affordable housing fund.

Once the Plan Commission makes a recommendation about the project, it will move on to the City Council for final action, which is expected sometime next month.

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Affordable Housing Fund

Is there a public record of how the Millions collected that goes into the affordable housing fund  is spent and who it went to?

Affordable Housing Fund

If you check page 152 of the current city budget, you'll see that the Affordable Housing Fund is described as follows:

The Affordable Housing Fund addresses the housing needs of low- and moderate-income individuals and families by promoting, preserving, and producing affordable housing; providing housing-related services; and providing support for non-profit organizations that actively address these housing needs, through:

  • Funding a comprehensive tenant/landlord program through Open Communities.
  • Providing funds for the acquisition, rehabilitation, and new construction of affordable housing.
  • Providing funding support for the Homeless Management Information System (HMIS).
  • Providing funding support for transitional housing, housing education, and related services.
  • Providing local match funds for Federal housing grants where appropriate.
  • Funding critical housing initiatives that are not eligible for Federal HOME funds.

For this year it is budgeted to spend nearly a half million on Community Sponsored Organizations and over a million on Services and Supplies.

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At a ward meeting Tuesday night, Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, said that the city doesn't yet have a plan for how to use the $2.4 million from the 831 Emerson project or other sizable amounts that may come in from other large rental developments now being proposed.

Until last year rental projects weren't covered by the ordinance and, with the condo market largely stalled since the original ordinance was adopted in 2006, there hasn't been a whole lot of money in the fund to spend.

But Wilson said that, now that it looks like more money may be available, things that are being talked about include efforts to rehab existing market rate affordable housing to preserve it and bolstering rental assistance and down-payment assistance programs.

-- Bill