Roseann Mark.

Residents of a co-op development in northwest Evanston opposed plans to build a childcare school next door during a Land Use Commission meeting Wednesday night.

Roseann Mark, a 20-year resident of the First Williamsburg Cooperative, complained that the daycare operator is a for-profit school and said “the simple solution is to cut down the enrollment.”

Bruce Hart.

Another neighbor, Bruce Hart, said the planned Kensington School “would destroy the neighborhood” and lower property values.

The First Williamsburg Co-op on Gross Point Road. (Google Maps image)

The co-op is located on Gross Point Road just south of the proposed site of the school — at the southwest corner of Gross Point Road and Central Street.

A rendering showing an aerial view of the proposed school looking southwest. Central street is on the lower right in the image. Gross Point Road on the upper left.

The co-op residents are also upset that the latest plan for the school would require reconfiguring an easement across the existing Unity Church parking lot that provides access to the parking area behind the co-op buildings.

Kensington has an agreement to purchase the church property and would demolish the existing church building to make room for its planned school.

The school’s plans call for 32 parking spaces on the site, which meets city code requirements.

George Halik

But Land Use Commissioner George Halik questioned how that space could accommodate drop-offs and pickups at peak hours for the projected 165 students.

Charles Marlas.

Charles Marlas, an owner of Kensington, which operates a dozen other daycare centers around the metro area, said Kensington lets parents drop off children over a three-and-a-half hour span between 6:30 and 10 a.m. and pick them up between 3:30 and 6:30 p.m. — reducing any peak traffic levels.

Michael Werthmann of the traffic engineering firm KOLA added that his firm has worked with Kensington on about half its schools and done surveys showing that peak demand was 60 vehicles an hour and that drop offs take only about five minutes — so the available parking spaces in the lot would be more than sufficient.

One unresolved issue with the development is whether the Illinois Department of Transportation, which controls decisions about curb cuts along Gross Point Road, will approve the proposed entrance and exit drive for the school.

City staff is recommending that cars be permitted to make both right and left turns to enter and exit there.

But Werthmann said state officials so far have indicated a preference for limiting the drive to right-in and right-out.

That would likely require changing the proposed right-exit-only driveway onto Central Street to add a left-turn-entrance option. Curb cut access to Central is controlled by the city.

In hopes of getting a final decision from the state before they have to vote on the project, the commissioners voted to continue the case until their July 27 meeting.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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3 Comments

  1. It is so tiresome to read about the incessant NIMBY’s that seems to confront every plan to improve our community (whichever one it is). The stated claims of hurt are almost always unsupported myths and gossip, and where containing some element of truth are devoid of any thought that maybe some sacrifice is called for in furtherance of the general good.

  2. There isn’t a neighborhood to destroy there. Why can’t anything happen in this city?

  3. “A daycare center! There goes the neighborhood.” The line of thinking almost reads as parody.

    I hope the concerned neighbors understand how difficult it can be for parents to find decent childcare, and what a resource the new school would likely be for other members of their community. (Will the construction be a short-term inconvenience? Sure. Such is the nature of city living.)

    As for traffic concerns: The prediction of staggered drop-offs and pick-ups ring true — my experience with my own kids (now grade school age) suggests that parents tend to arrive in such a manner. A new school would likely be a draw for many people, and perceived by many to be an asset to the neighborhood. The alarmist rhetoric suggests that the neighbors simply don’t want the school there, and will toss out any predicted drawback to try to alter or derail the plan. But to me, the tenor of the protestations rings hollow.

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