Evanston aldermen this week approved spending $13 million — most of it state and federal funds — to build 32 new rental apartments and townhouses on the city’s west side.

It’s the first phase of a project called Emerson Square that officials hope will eventually include about 70 housing units.

The project is being developed as part of the city’s $18 million federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program grant, which is in the midst of rehabilitating 100 units of foreclosed or abandoned homes at scattered sites in two of the city’s 14 census tracts.

Under the plan approved by aldermen the city will provide $2.1 million from the federal NSP2 grant and $400,000 from other federal housing aid to the city as well as $600,000 in property tax revenue from the West Evanston tax increment financing district.

In addition the city’s partner in the project, Brinshore Development, has secured $8.9 million in low income housing tax credits from the state housing development authority and just under $1 million more from other sources.

Most of the new units will be targeted to low and moderate income residents and will have income limits for occupancy.

The approval came after several local business owners who have benefited from the NSP2 program testified in support of it, along with a woman who is living in one of the first apartments rehabbed under the project.

Teresa Lascowitz told aldermen she had been living, with her two children including a disabled daughter who attends Park School, in a substandard one-bedroom basement apartment.

The NSP2 program, she said, had made it possible for them to move to an affordable newly-rehabbed three bedroom apartment.

Top: Teresa Lascowitz, with her daughter, describes the change the NSP2 program has made in her life. Above: Contractor Robin Rue.

While City Clerk Rodney Greene complained that work has stalled on an NSP2 program house next door to his home, contractor Robin Rue of Signature Construction Services said contractors have been doing exceptional work on the program.

She said David Brint, the head of Brinshore Development “expects nothing less than perfection in the work on the projects.”

Bill Smith of Community Builders

Bill Smith of Evanston Community Builders said there had been problems for subcontractors with narrow profit margins and slow payouts. But Rue said those problems weren’t much different from what happens on other projects.

Contractor Eric Dingle

Eric Dingle, owner of Best 1 Built, a life-long Evanston resident, said the NSP2 program was keeping him in business during the downturn in the construction industry.

Architect Nate Kipnis

Architect Nate Kipnis said 25 percent of the architectural firms in Chicago went out of business in 2009 and that the NSP2 program had given his firm a base of work for the past 18 months that’s made it possible to only reduce the size of his firm from five people to four.

He added that conditions in some of the targeted properties were “astonishingly bad” and that he’s been able to do a lot of work that has improved the energy efficiency of the properties.

Appraiser Tim Pareti said the program has had a positive impact on his business and given him a chance to serve the community.

And surveyor Ray Hanson said that in viewing the exteriors of the properties before and after the work has been done he’s quite impressed with the changes he’s seen. “The city should be proud of the project,” Hanson said.

The Emerson Square project is to be built on land centered around the former Bishop-Freeman factory site. It’s located between Foster and Emerson Streets and between Dewey and Jackson Avenues.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. More of the same old same old

    "Evanston aldermen this week approved spending $13 million — most of it state and federal funds — to build 32 new rental apartments and townhouses on the city's west side."


    I guess they feel the money is 'free' money from heaven and no one [including ultra-poor in Robbins] will not in affect paying for it. 

    With all the foreclosures and people being pushed to sell their houses/condos, there should already be property for purchase.

    How about moving City Hall to the [I assume pretty much vacant] Research Park property and tearing down the current City Hall eye sore and money pit, and put-up any low/moderate housing that is ultimately needed.

    What appears they do plan is to put the housing in the same problem areas, but not to bother any middle/upper income areas with 'these people."   Out of site out of mind and liberal minds will be satisfied that they are doing some [with taxes, not out of their pockets specifically].

    1. Why only on the West side

      I agree in questioning why all this subsized housing is being built on the West side of town.  Why not build throughout Evanston?  I think Chicago learned its lesson when they tried to group all the housing projects in a few concentrated areas.

      1. Subsidized housing isn’t just on the west side

        NSP2 isn't only on the West Side.  I know of 5 on the South Side of town while the West Side is slotted to have 4.  There is a 2 flat at 1011 Hull Terrace and a couple buildings (one is a townhome & the other a 2-flat) on Custer.  There are also a couple condos on Ridge and another on Oakton. You can check out the info on the program's website http://liveevanston.net/description.html 

        Also, if you notice the range of qualifying incomes is pretty generous.


        1. A few here and a few there…

          and that makes it equal?  They're not talking about a couple of homes or a two flat or a few condos This sounds and looks like a minimally prettied up version of what already exists on the old Mayfair Right-of-Way, from Foster to Simpson, and what used to be the alley behind Ashland and the remnants of the Rail line.

          These are townhomes put in by the city as "Low income housing" and in the time I've been in the neighborhood have been through three management companies, each worse to the tenants than the previous. Repairs shoddily carried out, tenants threatened, violations of the Lanlord-tenant ordinance (especially about children), drug dealing, and a city that can't be bothered to provide proper repairs to the former alley (now called Oak Tree Court) that is used by a majority of the residents to access their homes.

          So the neighborhood gets this cluster of additional housing (although it's worth it to get rid of the abandoned factory site), so the rest of Our Fair City can proclaim how liberal they are without having it in THEIR backyard. Same with a 5th ward school-  decimate a park and playground, increase segregation, and keep 'em in their place, right?  Anyone old enough to remember "separate but equal" still alive?

          Just one more reason to quit this city and move. Maybe go to Tennessee.  At least they're honest about their racism down there.

          1. A few is much better than none

            Never mind the very real people that these programs actually benefit, right Charon?

            These rehabs and new construction units are meant to benefit the people that live in these communities under substandard living conditions. Reread the article, specifically what Ms. Lascowitz had to say.

            As far as I know there aren't too many abandoned parcels of land left in Evanston. Would you seriously propose that the City aquire tax generating private property anywhere they want? Perhaps under the guise of eminent domain?

            And by the way, from what I've read most people commenting so far are OPPOSED to a new school in the 5th. But then I guess you would call that racism as well.

            Play the race card all you want Charon, it rings hollow on this issue. But I wish you well in your new adopted hometown. Good luck on your move.

          2. Racer,While I won’t make an


            While I won't make an argument either way on whether or not the housing imbalance is racially motivated, there is a housing imbalance: a vast majority of the low income and subsidized housing is clustered in the west and south sides of the city, away from the lake and the lakefront, the purple line, the library, and a lot of the healthy food options. Evanston is very segregated along income lines, and income tends to fall along race lines.

            This is a complicated issue – east/north property is more expensive and those who live in that area are often more affluent, so there is less abandoned property and very little land available. But there is some.

            These housing programs do benefit people – no denying that. But there is an imbalance and we should acknowledge it.



  2. Emerson Square price per unit

    $13 million for 32 units.  That's over $400,000 per unit.  There are units (nice condo units with parking ) for sale for a fraction of that amount at the corner of emerson and green bay and probably all over town too.

    $400,000+ per unit makes no sense, but the City isn't dumb, so what are we missing?

  3. Unequal distribution of work to the local Construction Firms

    The same contractors are getting all the work from the first five bid packages, Hmmm how does that work.  There is no other qualify contractors in City of Evanston? If I was those contractors I would kiss my lucky stars.

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