Evanston aldermen Monday moved toward approving a modified version of the Church Street Village townhouses proposal for the former Hines lumberyard at 1613 Church St.

The aldermen introduced the proposal at the city council meeting and then referred it back to committee for further review at a special meeting Tuesday, April 4.

The modifications, worked out in discussions with the developer, neighbors, the city’s development consultant and 2nd Ward Alderman Lionel Jean-Baptiste, include:

  • Revising the proposal to request R4 rather than R5 zoning to reduce the density precedent the project would set for neighboring properties.
  • Reducing the number of units in the project to 40. The original proposal called for 47 units and plans had previously been cut to 42 and then 41 units.
  • Increasing the setback of the units facing Church Street to 20 and 22 feet. That doubles the setback in the original proposal.
  • Increasing landscaping along the berm that marks the former route of the Mayfair branch railroad tracks and separates the site from the Onyx waste transfer station.
  • Adding a $50,000 contribution from the developers to the mayor’s affordable housing fund.

Neighbors who have challenged the density and design of the project, including Joan Safford of 1618 Wesley Ave., said they would prefer to see the project cut to 35 units, the basic number permitted a planned development without special allowances under R4 zoning. The property currently has I2 industrial zoning.

But Marty Stern of U.S. Equities, the city’s development consultant, said that a cut to 35 units would reduce the rate of return on the project “to very marginal levels.”

He also said that the cost of land for the project was not the driving factor in the need for greater density, and that instead it was the desire to be able to sell the units for between $360,000 and $400,000 – a price range considered affordable for teachers and other middle-income working families in Evanston.

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Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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