Neighbors opposed to a planned college dormitory on Central Street have lost the first round of their battle.

1620 Central St.
1620 Central St.

The City Council Monday voted unanimously to adopt zoning amendments to implement the Central Street master plan including one that would permit dormitories as a special use at a site under contract for purchase by National Louis University.

The school wants to move its PACE program for young adults with multiple developmental disabilities to the now-vacant office building at 1620 Central St.

Ken Bailey of 1602 Central St., a leader of the opponents, said, “The good news for our neighborhood is that a coalition has been formed among the neighbors that got its start only three weeks ago.”

“We’re now looking forward to participating in the special use hearings,” if the college moves forward with the proposal.

Opponents insisted that they were not opposed to the persons with disabilities who would be housed in the building and said they would be opposed to its use as a dorm, regardless of who was housed there.

Kathleen Ward of 1604 Central St. said residents of her condo building were also concerned about the laat-minute addition of the special use provision to the zoning plan, which had been under review for several months.

Jack Lawlor, an Evanston resident and attorney for the school, said that current zoning for the site would allow multi-family redevelopment of the property with twice the density of the current building.

By contrast, he said, the college proposes to renovate the existing building without substantially expanding it.

He said the text amendment to permit dormitories as a special use was properly considered by the Plan Commission and approved by it and that the 7th Ward neighborhood would have adequate protection through the special use approval process.

Patrick Hughes of 1317 Livingston, the son-in-law of 7th Ward Alderman Elizabeth Tisdahl, said he supports the PACE project and that a graduate of the program is one of his best friends.

Alderman Cheryl Wollin, 1st Ward, said, “I just don’t see that a special use is going to have as disastrous an impact on the area as has been portrayed. But we don’t have to grant special uses.”

Zoning administrator Bill Dunkley said including the special use provision “only allows the possibility of a property owner to submit an application.”

The broader provisions of the zoning plan, hotly debated last year, were approved without further discussion Monday.

Jeff Smith of 2724 Harrison St., president of the Central Street Neighbors Association that figured prominently in the debate, praised the new zoning and the process leading to its adoption.

“In a time of cynicism, it’s been an uplifting and invigorating process,” Smith said, “and it shows that citizens can make a difference.”

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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13 Comments

  1. Reasons for opposition
    Just curious–What are the reasons that opponents are giving for their objection to the plan?

    1. The objections
      Generally speaking the concerns voiced at Monday’s meetings involved fears about noise and increased traffic around the prospective dorm site.

      1. More loss of tax revenue?
        I am more worried about the loss of tax revenue. With the city budget being so tight, why would the council consider giving a tax exemption to property that used to add about $100,000 to the city’s coffers?

  2. The PACE program dormitory
    The PACE program dormitory was formerly located at the corner of Sheridan and Isabella, and was sold to developers when National Louis sold its Evanston campus. As such the former dorm was linked to public transit at the Central St EL stop. I was a neighbor of the former PACE dorm for 15 years and there were never any problems. The young people were lovely and hard-working. In terms of tax revenue, the former site was sold and is now on the tax rolls, so if the new site is to become tax-exempt, perhaps it will be a fairly even trade. There is no reason to be concerned about this use of the site. Would condos be better? I think we have enough of them.

    1. A Poor approach to this issue
      I agree with the comments the kids in the Pace dorm were good neighbors and never caused any issues. They were very friendly and polite. I lived close to them.

      But I think our alderperson has not done us any favors by pushing this through the council.

      One the city and schools will lose about $100,000 in taxes – it is not really a trade off since National Louis chose to leave and now it wants to return. But making it a allowed special use the city has no ability to now ask for a payment versus taxes. Since the tax status has no bearing on the use – even though some might like to think differently the city would be sued if it now wanted a payment for allowing the use.

      I have another concern – although unrelated to the zoning issue. That is what happens to the kids once they leave the program? What does National Louis do to provide them continued support? The city is now cutting 1/4 of the mental health budget – although it does not appear any of the funding went to support kids from this program. I certain my alderperson did not think about this. Ofcourse some will say its been working for years ok – ofcourse I bet no one looked too closely at this issue. I suspect many of these kids if left without support could be victims to crimes and other issues.

      Having forced National Louis to go through a zoning change might have been better for the Kids in PACE than our alderperson’s added on to the Central Street Ordinance.

      1. PACE & OUR COMMUNITY
        I just don’t understand peoples fears and concerns. The PACE students are a wonderful asset to our community. There is so much acceptance and room in our community. Why shouldn’t they benefit from the wonderful outlets there is here for everyone? Being an individual with a disability, for some people is a struggle in and of itself. Why can’t we be as welcomed and inclusive as we are to everyone else?
        This town is not a private one. Everyone should feel right at home like they belong, not like an outsider.

  3. Worry being wasted
    If opponents are worried about increased traffic and noise around the prospective dorm site, their worry is being wasted. The Pace students use public transportation and this proposed location has close proximity to both Metra and CTA trains. There were never any noise issues at the previous dorm location at Isabella and Sheridan.

  4. more about Pace
    You people are imposible to convince of anything worried about nonesense, give me a break

  5. PACE Program
    Moving the PACE Program to the Central St community, would assist them in being more inclusive. What do we learn by sheltering them from everyone else. They have much to offer our community. They can teach us things we have forgotten, like having a child-like heart. We get so wrapped up in our own attitudes, we forget how to welcome someone new into our area.

    Of course, we need to vote on this issue, so everyone’s voice is heard. Evanston is not some fancy secluded incorporated village. Everyone belongs here. Ease your mind you won’t see any of these students in the Evanston Police Blotter. Here’s a hypothetical. You are out walking and have a heart attack. One of the students knows CPR. Would you want them to ignore you?

  6. PACE & Taxes
    It is entirely reasonable – and desirable – for the City to keep land on the tax roles, and to make life difficult for any organization that tries to remove land from the tax roles, as long as this is done fairly and within the law ( Are you listening, Tuition Tax people? )

    In this particular case I agree with Tisdahl and others, who pointed out that PACE merely swapped one site of land for another, so there is no net loss to the City.

    Still Rainey’s concerns about 1620 Central becoming tax-free are entirely legitimate, since they appear to be motivated only by revenue considerations.

    However, the mean-spirited NIMBY’s who just don’t want PACE in their neighborhood are a different case. They have made it clear that they just don’t want the PACE program next door, and now they are just clinging to this ‘tax issue’ as their last hope to stop the program.

    Here is my question: Would it be legal, and financially viable, for the City to purchase property on the open market ( for example, the former Kendall lot) and then re-sell it, with a restriciton that the property never be sold or rented to a nontaxable organization? Are there any constitutional issues here?

    This way the city could stop NU’s expansion, or stop churches from buying land, without resorting to the illegal behavior of the ‘Fair Share’ people or the malicious behavior of the anti-PACE people.

    The prohibition against tax-free institutions would then be applied fairly ( so PACE, NU, St. Athanasius, and ENH would all be prevented from expanding in that neighborhood) instead of allowing some intolerant NIMBY’s to choose which organizations they like.

    1. Who – is it a equal swap?
      Who – the land that was the dorm is now R1 – residental zoning taxed at a lower rate than the property on Central – street which is commerical – different assessment also. thus it is not 1 to 1 as you state or as Liz Tisdahl is stating.

      It is too late to do much – if you read my previous comment back in January. I would not worry too much the council can not tax them or force them into giving them a fee. As for creating a policy as they asked the city manager – they can not have policy to get fees from non-for-profits – doubt it would hold up in court –

      The only way the city can have any control in the process is very indirect – that is to have strict zoning – that limits the expansion of certain uses, if those who want the change propose a payment it is OK – but the city can not use it to stop the change. But this is not the purpose of zoning – to get payments – in most cases those against the projects are not interested in the payments.

  7. The Pace Matter
    If pace doesn’t get that sight,wouldn’t it be better if we let Pace have the site it will somewhat help the ecomony of Evanston and would’nt be better if these wonderful young adults had a place to learn the things everyone needs basic understanding about , rather than living at home with their parents and their parents deciding their every next move, or working at some mediocore job where they get very little respect. It helps that when their parents die that these young adults won’t have to rely on others about knowing how to live and the parents will feel relieved to know they know how to all the things that help them survive this very scary world we live in.

  8. Tax breaks to auto dealerships
    As for the city losing $100,000 to a tax exemption for this proposal remember the million dollar arrangement for certain auto dealerships to locate or remain in Evanston.

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