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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