A developer has submitted preliminary plans to the city to build 44 condominium units in two five-story buildings on adjoining properties at Emerson Street and Jackson Avenue on Evanston’s near west side.

The proposal from Domanus Development calls for 24 units in a building facing Emerson Street. That building would have 25 underground and 11 surface parking spaces.

A rendering of the proposed building facing Emerson Street.

The building facing Jackson Avenue would have 20 units and 18 underground and 12 surface parking spaces.

A rendering of the proposed building facing Jackson Avenue.

The buildings are proposed to have all two-bedroom units ranging in size from 1,500 to 1,600 square feet.

The developer’s initial plans were reviewed by city staff and determined to be non-compliant with city zoning for an as-of-right development.

Planning and Zoning Administrator Scott Mangum says they would require several site development allowances including for interior side yard setbacks. building height and lot coverage. The project would need to be reviewed as a planned development under the city’s zoning code.

Mangum said developer John Domanus indicated he would submit revised plans for the project soon.

Domanus didn’t return a call Wednesday from Evanston Now seeking comment on his plans.

The project would require demolition of seven existing buildings with a total of 12 dwelling units. That’s a contrast to most recent large residential projects in the city which generally have been built on land that was either vacant or being used for commercial or industrial uses.

The parcels involved are all currently owned by entities associated with Lee Street Holdings LLC, managed by Victoria Kathrein of Rogers Park-based Lee Street Management. Kathrein declined comment on the project.

But county property records show that assembling the final pieces of the site proved profitable for those who sold to Lee Street.

Gnathan Carpenter, who bought the single family home at 1421 Emerson St. in 2014 through the city’s NSP II housing rehabilitation program for $227,000 received $525,000 when he sold it to Lee Street earlier this month.

And Main Keeler LLC, which bought 1921 Jackson Ave. in 2016 for $100,000, received $255,000 for selling it to Lee Street last year.

Several years ago the 1900 block of Jackson was noted as a crime hotspot in the city, and while police claimed success in reducing crime on the block, it has continued to sporadically show up in police incident reports, including an unconfirmed sighting yesterday afternoon of a man with a gun.

Several of the properties that would be demolished under the plan are believed to provide relatively affordable housing in the community. It’s unclear at this point how the developer plans to comply with the city’s affordable housing ordinance.

Alderman Robin Rue Simmons, whose 5th Ward includes the development site, has not responded to an email seeking comment on the project, which is about a quarter mile west of the northwest edge of downtown.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Conflicted & Concerned

    Interesting proposal. I’m not sure how I feel about this one.

    In general I would consider myself very pro-development, especially in regards to the downtown district. Adding density is a net positive – more taxpayers, more patrons for local businesses, etc. That said, I also care deeply about diversity in Evanston, and making sure that this city remains both economically and racially diverse for generations to come. That is why so many of us choose to live here. 

    Gentrification in the Fifth Ward and the shrinking black population in Evanston is something that should matter to all of us; racial diversity makes this city special and unique, and we all have a stake in maintaining that. I fear that a project like this would only increase that disturbing trend. 

    Very curious to hear Alderman Simmons’ take on this, who presumably has her ear to the ground far better than most. 

  2. Condo Units on West side


    This site is fairly prominent and is a type of gateway into the downtown area. It would be nice if the architecture addressed the issues of place, community, typology and urbanity in some way. The renderings that are shown seem generic and arbitrary as if plucked from a catalog. It’s always a shame when lazy architectural after-thoughts get built. This building will be part of the community for generations, the City should demand better.

  3. Love it

    Although details are still largely TBD, as somebody who lives three blocks away from this site, it looks like a very welcome addition to me. People constantly complain that developers aren’t looking to beautify and provide additional housing to residents in the fifth ward, and when one does just that, they should be applauded for focusing on the area. People keep talking about gentrification in the area, but it hasn’t happened in the last 30+ years and this project won’t lead to it either. Prices are still very cheap — Evanston hasn’t seen much home price increase (perhaps to the chagrin of some homeowners?) compared to other neighborhoods of Chicago that could be viewed as equivalent at one point. Instead, this project and more like it, may lead to more success for local businesses like Claire’s Korner and Jennifer’s Edibles. Isn’t that what everybody wants? Economic development in this area?

    This project would greatly improve the aesthetics of those corners and increase housing availability/inventory/affordability. While they may not be super cheap 2-unit rentals, they will provide much more housing than the existing structures on those sites and I can tell you that there is not a luxury apartment market for that area….I envision them to be nicely appointed residences for those that choose to live in the fifth ward for reasons the same reasons that individuals currently do and it help current businesses in the area. I equate this somewhat to the townhouses near ETHS on Church, although those are likely much larger (and more expensive residences), but they still offer nice aesthetics and modern conveniences for reasonable prices for middle-class Evanstonians. 

    That’s a win-win in my opinion. I really hope the Alderman and city look at this as an opportunity.

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