Evanston City Council members delayed action on three development projects Monday night.
The full City Council voted to table a final approval vote on two projects in the 1800 block of Church Street — an affordable housing development and a church — for two weeks.
Meanwhile, the Planning and Development Committee tabled plans for a downtown apartment hotel for a month.
Ald. Clare Kelly (1st) tried to derail the Church Street projects, raising doubts about funding for the new home for the Mt. Pisgah Ministry and questioning the performance of the Housing Opportunity Development Corporation in operating another building it owns at 319 Dempster St.
Two council members fought back against Kelly’s claims about HODC.
Ald. Devon Reid (8th) asked Interim Community Development Director Sarah Flax whether there’s a pattern of HODC providing substandard housing in the city.
Flax said, “No,” adding that the city had just done an inspection of the Claridge Apartments at 319 Dempster and found “nothing out of the ordinary” for any housing provided for tenants in a subsidized development.
Ald. Bobby Burns (5th) whose ward includes the Church Street properties, disputed Kelly’s claim that a dead body went undiscovered for weeks there despite tenant complaints about odors. Burns said city first responders visited the building several times during that period and noticed no odors.
Kelly tried to persuade the council to send the affordable housing project back to the Land Use Commission for further review, but gained no support for that idea.
At the Council’s last meeting, responding to complaints from neighbors that the proposed new housing development — at five stories — was too tall, Burns won council backing for reducing its height to four stories. That reduced the number of apartments in the development from 44 to 33.
But the change, Burns said, made underground parking for the project unaffordable, which in turn led to reducing the amount of retail space in the building to accommodate all the parking spaces on the ground floor to 1,200 square feet — about a third of the amount in the original plan
After some speakers at Monday night’s meeting called for adding back more retail space, staff conferred with the developer and concluded that the retail space could be increased to 2,000 square feet without requiring other major modifications.
The council voted to postpone a final vote on the two projects until the Council’s April 10 meeting to give HODC time to develop revised plans showing the change in retail space.
At the Planning and Development Committee, Cameel Halim’s proposal to convert the shuttered King Home into an apartment hotel ran into questions what should be in an operating agreement — a new requirement for shared housing providers the council adopted earlier this year.
Halim and his attorney, Alan Didesch, said the city has provided no guidance yet about what should be in such an agreement, but Ald. Clare Kelly (1st) and Ald. Jonathan Nieuwsma (4th) said they wanted to see the agreement before voting to advance the special use request to the full City Council.
And, on Nieuwsma’s motion the committee voted to table the special use permit request for a month so the agreement could be developed.
In addition Ald. Melissa Wynne (3rd) questioned whether Halim has any experience running a hotel.
Halim said he did not, but that he operates more than 5,000 apartment units and has more than 500 employees in the area. He said he is planning to have a Wyndham hotels franchise for the property at 1555 Oak Ave.
Didesch said Wyndham would be putting its name on the building and would be monitoring the hotel’s performance.
I agree that it would be much better to have a retail ground floor layer in the building proposed at Church and Darrow. More amenities within walking distance in any neighborhood is an improvement, IMO.
Only in the 5th ward can they get away with putting up a building as ugly as that up with frosted windows with no businesses. No other wards would they even try.
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