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City sees busy development year in 2017

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Evanston officials see a busy construction year ahead in 2017 and won City Council approval last month to nearly double the size of a contract with an outside plan review firm to cope with the extra work.

The city’s community development director, Mark Muenzer, says the value of construction projects in the city was $523 million through November 2016, up 69 percent compared to the same period in 2015.

Much of the new construction is happening on the Northwestern University campus, and it appears that off campus multi-family residential development may be heading for a slowdown.

The chart shows that two large developments were completed and opened last year — 112 units in The Main, an office, retail and residential development at 847 Chicago Ave. and 114 units in the Hyatt House extended-stay hotel at 1515 Chicago Ave.

Currently under construction are three developments — 101 units at the 1571 Maple Ave. highrise downtown, 47 at 1620 Central St. and eight townhouse units at Church Street Village in west Evanston.

Approved by the City Council during 2016 were 163 mostly assisted-living units in a highrise at 1815 Ridge Ave. and 44 apartments in a four-story project at 824 Noyes St.

And in 2016 the City Council rejected plans for a 267-unit highrise targeted to college students at 831 Emerson St., a project that was initially proposed in 2015.

As 2017 begins no development projects are scheduled for public review by the Plan Commission and City Council.

During 2016 only two small projects were submitted to the city’s zoning staff for preliminary review — one, at 3233 Central St., proposes 14 new dwelling units to replace nine already existing on the site. The other calls for six “tiny house” units on a vacant lot at 2122 Darrow Ave.

One project initially proposed in the last days of 2015 has still not moved into the public review process — that’s a proposed 217-unit highrise at 601 Davis St.

Excluded from these figures are one NU dorm now under construction on Lincoln Street and another that was proposed for Hinman Avenue in 2016 but that hasn’t moved into the formal city review process.

Despite the apparent slowdown in off-campus residential development, Muenzer says, “Staff continues to be contacted by a number of development entities regarding the filing of new applications.”

He says those groups “are in the process of finalizing site control and developing initial development plans prior to filing any applications.”

The city imposed a new burden on developers at the start of 2016, when a new, expanded inclusionary housing ordinance went into effect, but Muenzer says none of the would-be developers have said that those changes have delayed their projects.

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