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The Evanston Plan Commission unanimously approved and sent to the City Council an apartment rental project at 831 Emerson St. that drew strong opposition from residents of a neighboring development.

The developer told the commission at its meeting Wednesday night that it had agreed to lower the height of the building from 14 stories to 12 stories, which would reduce the number of units from 287 to 267.

As part of the deal, the developers agreed to make a contribution to the city of $500,000 for affordable housing purposes and to contribute $56,000 in sponsorship funds towards Divvy bicycles in Evanston.

The meeting Wednesday was a continuation of a public hearing that began last month. Many of the speakers had signed up to testify in December, but that session was recessed due to time considerations, so they were allowed to speak on Wednesday.

Most of the public speakers were senior citizens who lived in a nearby co-op project who testified that the 831 project, that developers said would be marketed to students at nearby Northwestern University, was not suitable for the area and might not be financially feasible.

None of the public speakers testified in favor of the project.

A spokesman for the developers said the project, while unique in Evanston, has been a successful concept in other college towns, such as Madison, Wisconsin, and Champaign, Illinois

The units would be smaller in square footage than typical apartments and would be leased by separate bedrooms to accommodate roommate arrangements that fluctuate as individual renters graduate or take study opportunities abroad.

But he said they could not legally discriminate against non-students and that some 15 to 20 percent of the tenants could quite possibly be young professionals who would be unable to afford something larger, but would be attracted to Evanston because of its proximity to public transportation.

After reviewing the standards that, under city ordinances, had to be met if the special use and zoning variances could be granted, the commission voted 7-0 to recommend approval to the City Council, which has final say in the matter.

More coverage of the 831 Emerson project

Charles Bartling

A resident of Evanston since 1975, Chuck Bartling holds a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and has extensive experience as a reporter and editor for daily newspapers, radio...

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8 Comments

  1. City got its ‘pound of flesh’ again

    Odd that a city who says it wants to be a thriving and growing community requires a business, here apartments, to effectively have to pay a bribe to do their business in Evanston. In international trade they would call it a bribe and taken to court but in the Peoples Republic of Evanston it is called a 'cost of doing business' and a contribution..

    1. Emerson building
      So….is that really legal??? Yes, it does sound like a bribe….are there going to be about 300 parking spaces for cars? Every time citizens oppose something, it gets built anyway…what is the point of citizen comments?

  2. Get Off My Lawn!

    These "get off my lawn" type complains from the senior co-op are ridiculous.

    I am glad that the commission was able to look beyond the interests of a loud minority of nearby residents and support a project that is beneficial for the residents of all of Evanston.

    1. My guess
      The University has some of the best acreage in Evanston, do they really need more? My bet is after a few years the building will be sold to NWU. I would rather see this space be used for Evanston residents, not students.

      1. Are Students not residents?
        If i were to enroll in a class at NU would I lose my status as a resident?

    2. An absurdity

      It's absurd that a complex that is designed to be 100% affordable (relative to Evanston market rate) still has to pay a bribe to the affordable housing fund.

    3. Will this affect you?
      I’m wondering, Evanstonian 4 Life, how this project will benefit ALL of Evanston? Really? How is a small, furnished apt going to help you personally? How would you feel if this very beneficial project was being built across the street from your house?
      The project does not belong in this neighborhood, period. NU doesn’t need it, Evanston doesn’t either. Except for money. Crappy projects go in and get approved because of money. Not what’s good for the city, neighborhood, surrounding residents. It’s money. And Evanston government doesn’t care about the residents, whether they were loud or not, it obviously didn’t matter, as it looks the the project may move forward. They care about the money. I can’t wait until they come up with something you don’t want near your front lawn. We’ll see how you feel then.

  3. If not students, parents ?

    If as NU says, they don't need additional private funded housing for students—i.e. NU dorms will take care of the need—there could be another 'need' to replace this one.

    The Economist magazine June 18-24, 2016 p.30 says a number of college towns are seeing an increase in parent(s)—many Chinese—buying/renting in the college town to take care of their college age kids [good diet, proper behavior, etc.].

    Maybe Evanston could start advertising such housing.

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