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Affordable housing high-rise wins panel vote

Evanston's Design and Project Review Committee voted 7-3 this afternoon to recommend approval of plans for a 16-story mixed-income building at 1900 Sherman Ave.

A rendering of "The Emerson" the new HACC development proposed for the northwest corner of Sherman Avenue and Emerson Street.

Evanston’s Design and Project Review Committee voted 7-3 this afternoon to recommend approval of plans for a 16-story mixed-income building at 1900 Sherman Ave.

The Housing Authority of Cook County project, called The Emerson, would be constructed next to HACC’s Perlman Apartments development and would be restricted to persons at least 55 years of age.

In response to comments at a DAPR meeting last week, Bill James, a consultant to the housing authority on the project, disagreed with claims that the building would be out of scale with the area and said the difference in height compared to the 11-story Perlman building to the north or the 10-story LINK Evanston building to the west would “not be significant in terms of the view from ground level.”

Bill James

He also said the design provided significant green space along the street compared to some nearby buildings that have little or none. Providing that green space, he said, requires that the building be higher.

During public comment, Sarah Vanderwicken, who lives across the street from the site at Sherman Gardens said the development would provide “a tremendous social benefit” by increasing the amount of affordable housing.

Larry Donoghue, the chair of the city’s Housing and Homelessness Commission, said the city needs to increase permitted density to address its affordable housing problems.

Larry Donoghue.

“You can’t say that you support affordable housing and maintain current restrictions on height,” Donoghue said.

But Trisha Connolly said the project — with 20% low income units and 10% missing middle units — would only “throw a few bones” at the affordable housing issue and would primarily add to the amount of luxury housing in the city.

Planning and Zoning Division Manager Scott Mangum, one of the three committee members who voted against the project, said that while he believed the project had a high quality design, he didn’t feel the public benefit from the amount of affordable housing provided was sufficient to justify the proposed increase in height.

The next step for the development is a hearing before the city’s Plan Commission, which is expected to be held at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 9.

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