Ald. Bobby Burns (5th) says he plans to seek approval of an ordinance that would ban the use of plywood for board ups of vacant buildings.

Faced with complaints from neighbors at a ward meeting Wednesday night about several properties that are boarded up near the intersection of Emerson Street and Jackson Avenue, Burns said police have told him that as long as doors and windows can be locked from the inside, there’s no need to put plywood over them.

In addition, Burns said, there are alternatives — like placing hard plastic over the windows — that look much better and don’t create blight in the community.

The city code specifies a variety of steps owners of vacant buildings must take to keep them secure.

All but one of the collection of seven properties owned by Victoria Kathrein the near the intersection have been vacant since neighbors chased off a developer who in 2018 had proposed constructing two five-story buildings with 44 condominium units on the site.

Neighbors then sought to have the property downzoned, but that proposal stalled after the Plan Commission recommended against it.

Kathrein now has the seven properties listed for sale for a total of $2.1 million.

Meanwhile, at a somewhat similar site in south Evanston, the city is seeking proposals to redevelop a city parking lot on South Boulevard for affordable and market rate housing — and is offering to up zone the site to permit a five-story development there.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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