1829-1831 Simpson St.

Despite continued objections from some neighbors, the Evanston Plan Commission and its Zoning Committee voted Wednesday to rezone a vacant store-front building at 1829-1831 Simpson St. to permit its use as an artist’s studio.

1829-1831 Simpson St.
1829-1831 Simpson St.

The change would switch the 25-foot-wide property from R3, a medium-density residential zone, to the MU transitional manufacturing district.

Zoning Administrator Bill Dunkley said the MU zoning, unlike the B1 business zoning initially requested by the property owner, would prevent the building’s use as a retail store — meeting one of the concerns of the residents.

But Betty Ester, who lives around the corner from the property at 2114 Darrow, suggested that the lot should be acquired by the government and added to the adjacent park land to the west.

She said she feared that if the property gained a new use it would increase the value of other property in the neighborhood, forcing resident on fixed incomes to deal with increased property taxes they could ill afford.

Tina Paden of 1122 Emerson suggested the building could be converted to a restroom facility for the park.

Alderman Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, said residents “had worked really hard” to get the zoning of the property changed from B1 to R3 several years ago. She suggested the studio use might be more appropriate further east on Simpson, but said she recognized that the owner “can’t buy two buildings, so something would have to be worked out.”

“This is a very tough case,” Plan Commissioner Stuart Opdycke said, “But I’d be inclined toward a solution that would help the property economically contribute to the city.”

“I don’t see it as a residence,” he added, “because of the configuration of the lot. It’s built as a storefront commercial property.”

The property has been vacant for at least seven years, and Dunkley said, “Vacant buildings really hurt transitional neighborhoods like this.”

The building’s owner, Peter Fleps of 2151 Forestview Road, has said he plans to use it as a design studio and wood shop for his business, Flepspace LLC.

The rezoning proposal now goes to the City Council for a final decision.

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Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. She said she feared that if
    She said she feared that if the property gained a new use it would increase the value of other property in the neighborhood,

    This is the first time that I have heard of someone objecting to a project because it would INCREASE property values!

    1. Nuts
      I’ve never heard anything like that before, either. All I can say to that is–Nuts!

      1. Not Nuts
        That comment was made because of what has happened when areas become renovated. They become gentrified, and that raises prices of homes, which means that the people originally living there in can no longer afford to live there. The rising prices imply higher real estate taxes, which the prior residents can no longer afford. That also means the socioeconomic class moving in is different. That is why gentrification is a bad word in the West side. Affordable housing indeed.

        1. Yes, nuts
          Let’s make it real simple: Ask anyone who owns property in that area if they want their property values to rise, and they will and should say yes sireee Bob. Because if your property value rises you basically have more money. More money is good. Less money is bad (that’s when property values decrease). Real estate, BTW, is the most valuable asset one can own.

          So bottom line, anyone who says they don’t want their property values to rise are NUTS!

          And yes, when property values rise so do taxes. You want to know why? Because taxes are based on the assessed value of a property. Unless of course you would have it the other way around – those living in multi-million dollar homes pay less based on their assessed value than those who do not own in the upper bracket. Now that is NUTS!!!

          So you take the good with the bad – your home’s values rises (a good thing) and your taxes rises proportionally. The real issue here is taxes – that’s something homeowners need to take up with their city, county, state and federal governmental bodies. It has nothing to do with gentrification. It has everything to do with VOTING!

          A real good thing- lower taxes and rising home values. Now that’s not nuts.
          Anonymous Al

          1. Simpson Street Property and zoning
            Bill Smith in reporting this story – while the information is there – it is unclear to me if the real issue here is being correctly discussed.

            Those of you commenting on the neighbors – who are not very well versused in zoning are not much better. ( that is all the Anonymous commenting )

            I would suggest ever one looks at the zoning the map. This tiny piece of property is part of a much larger R3 area – the neighbors in the article had it rezone to R3 it appears a few years ago.

            Thus the city reversing this has a potential issue – and the potential of legal actions.

            Maybe the great minds on the council can correct all this?

            Beyond all this ofcourse this area has problems – the neighbors are somewhat in denial of the problems – and do not necessary want change to correct the problems. but that is another issue unrelated to this zoning matter.

          2. For the anonymous real estate whiz
            I am glad you are such a real estate whiz. I was merely trying to give you the reason that some on the West side fear rising property values and the gentrification that comes with it. To out it bluntly, it means that many of them are pushed out because of rising costs and it means the demographic coming in does not represent them. Look at what has happened to the Cabrini Green area in Chicago and the Near North side and parts of the South loop. It may benefit some of the property owners as they sell with a profit, but it also means that many will denied entry because it is no longer affordable.

            Zero sum game.

          3. Not a real estate whiz, just a realist
            What do you mean by -“the demographic coming in does not represent them?” What demographic would that be?

            So if my family and I move into a home on the west side, according to your logic, we wouldn’t represent those living in our new neighborhood? That is, we’re not part of that neighborhood, according to you? Or do you think it only applies to a certain group of people? I’d love to hear your explanation.

            Gentrification is a result of the free market system. Real estate markets, and there are hundreds of thousands of them, fluctuate year by year. Some increase in value, some decrease in value and some are stable. I grew up in the Lincoln Square neighborhood in Chicago. Now, I can not afford to buy the majority of homes there. Shucks, I guess I have to consider living somewhere else – like Evanston!!! So, far, I’ve been denied entry on lake front property all across the North Shore. Dems da breaks. The only thing constant is change. Nothing gold can stay, etc.

            BTW, people living in Cabrini Green were not owners. And, public highrise housing was a disaster created by the government. In fact, many of those “pushed out” in the areas you mentioned were not homeowners. So the question becomes – Are rents too high on the west side? Do you want rent control on the west side? Is that what you really mean?

            The bottom line in this rant is that you have two choices – let the free market (people) decide what real estate prices will be or have the government step in and enact measures to control the real estate market such as more subsidized housing, rent control, more taxation, raise the interest rates, more stringent lender rules, moratoriums on new development or how about this – subsidized highrise housing. Ooops, my bad. You’re against more highrises. What to do.
            Anonymous Al

          4. Real estate issues
            To whomever you are.

            I was not agreeing with the statement that person made, just attempting (without success apparently) to indicate the mindset of some people in the West Side, where gentrification is a concern. If you recall there was some concern over the proposed West Side plan for rejuvenating the area and causing existing people to be forced out.

            I certainly am for the free market, my U of C MBA would be revoked otherwise. I am not against high rises or development, I am for those that make economic sense. The Tower does not — it is a financial loss to the city until the TIF runs out, 2019. We have worked those details out with Ms. Carroll’s staff and they are available on the ECRD website. If you are for the Tower and paying higher taxes until then to resolve the pension imbroglio, be my guest, but I hope you would pay my portion.

            As for your apparent rant against subsidized housing, please preach to the City Council, especially Mr. Moran.

            BTW I also grew up in Lincoln Square, on Claremont near Sunnyside. Made some nice money selling an apartment building there. That area never declined, went from German/Irish to boomers, who are the gentrifying elements. Friends own restaurants and shops there and are doing quite well.

  2. So, of course, a vacant,
    So, of course, a vacant, boarded up building is better for the neighborhood.

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