Evanston’s City Council gave final approval Monday night to plans for 33 units of affordable housing and a new church building on the Church Street block west of Darrow Avenue.

The plans had drawn fierce opposition from some neighbors, but strong support from affordable housing advocates and leaders of other churches in the 5th Ward neighborhood.

Both proposals were approved on 7-1 votes with Ald. Clare Kelly (1st) casting the only no votes.

The plans from the Housing Opportunity Development Corporation originally called for a five-story apartment building with 44 apartment units and underground parking.

In response to neighbors’ concerns about the height, Ald. Bobby Burns (5th) persuaded the developer to cut the height to four stories, reducing the unit count and eliminating the underground parking.

In a final revision to the proposal two weeks ago, the ground-floor retail component, cut by two-thirds when the underground parking was eliminated, was bumped back up from 1,200 to 2,200 square feet.

Kelly based her objection to the HODC project on her claims that the agency’s management of a different building, at 319 Dempster St. “has been a train wreck” that conditions there “have been horrible for the residents.”

The church project also drew fire from Kelly, who expressed doubts about the ability of the Mt. Pisgah Ministry to come up with the funds to construct the building.

Community Development Director Sarah Flax responded that funding isn’t part of the zoning review process conducted by the city for any development proposal.

The church currently owns much of the land that is proposed for the housing development, while the city owns the corner property that is proposed for the church.

Under the plans, the city will donate its land to HODC as part of the funding package for the housing development, and then HODC will swap the acquired land for the church’s current property.

Burns said the two building proposals would meet all the provisions of the city’s West Evanston Plan — placing the church, what the plan describes as “an iconic building,” on the corner, and providing ground-floor retail and affordable housing at mid-block within the building height limit called for by the plan.

The city-owned property on the corner, once the site of a gas station, has been vacant for decades.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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