Neighbors, the developers and city officials struggled tonight to reach a compromise on plans to redevelop the former Hines lumberyard on Church Street.

The Hines lumberyard has been closed for nearly a year.

Some neighbors, who for the most part live east of the site, think the proposal for 41 townhouses on 1.5 acres is too dense for the nearby neighborhood of mostly single-family homes.

They also fear that permitting R5 zoning for this project would lead the city to grant the same high-density zoning if other industrial properties even closer to existing homes are redeveloped.

But Walter Kihm of developer Cyrus Homes says the density is needed to keep prices affordable, and that substantially higher priced homes likely would not sell next door to the Onyx waste transfer station.

Among the suggestions for compromise:

  • Approve the Church Street Village project with R4 rather than R5 zoning, to reduce the chance that future projects could get the higher zoning.
  • Trim one or two units from the back of the project to make room for a bigger setback from Church Street.
  • Rezone the adjacent industrial properties to R3 or R4.

Alderman Lionel Jean-Baptiste, whose 2nd Ward includes the project site, said the Hines proposal represents the first time in ages developers have been willing to take a risk on Evanston’s west side.

“This is a very timely proposal for those of us active in trying to revitalize the Church-Dodge neighborhood and the community to the west. This area has suffered irrational land use, dilapidation and blight, and property values have lagged far behind those in the rest of the city,” Ald. Jean-Baptiste said.

Marty Stern, the city’s development consultant, said he’s reviewing financial information provided by the developer and hopes to have an analysis of the project – including whether it would be financially viable with lower density – available in time for the Planning and Development Committee’s consideration of the project at 6 p.m. Monday.

Ald. Jean-Baptiste said the committee has also scheduled a special meeting to discuss the proposal on Tuesday, April 4.

“A radical transformation of the project is not where we are at right now,” Ald. Jean-Baptiste said, “We’re trying to tweak it to make it more acceptable.”

Related link
Photo gallery showing project plans
Neighbor Joan Safford’s blog updates the debate on the project

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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