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Council OKs Albion high-rise, outrages foes

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Evanston aldermen voted 5-4 Monday night to approve the 15-story Albion Residential planned development at 1450 Sherman Ave.

The vote came after months of discussion and several rounds of modifications to the plan.

But none of the changes appeared to bring any satisfaction to a group of opponents. They repeatedly interrupted aldermanic discussion of the development Monday and hurled insults at aldermen after the vote.

A rendering of the final design for the project as approved by the City Council.

Some opponents pledged to work to defeat the incumbent aldermen at the next election in 2021, although it appeared that most of the opponents are residents of wards whose aldermen voted against the development.

Melissa Wynne.

Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, who voted to reject the Albion plan, said, “The vitriol from opponents is out of proportion to what this building is doing in the downtown.”

The building is too big, she said, and too dense and doesn’t provide an appropriate transition in height from the downtown core to surrounding low-rise neighborhoods.

But she praised Andrew Yule, who led the Albion project team, saying he has worked very hard to respond to community concerns “and has been remarkably patient.”

Alderman Cicely Fleming, 9th Ward, who also voted against Albion, said said it was disheartening to hear the baseless claims made by some opponents. “To hear that this building is the epitome of white supremacy doesn’t make sense,” she said.

Albion has agreed to spend roughly twice what’s required by the city’s inclusionary housing ordinance to provide 15 affordable units in the 273-unit rental development. But some opponents appeared to believe that any new market-rate housing was too much.

Don Wilson.

Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, who voted for the development, suggested opponents had forgotten what they’d been taught in high school economics — that the city needs to increase the supply of housing if it’s to slow demand-driven increases in rents.

While foes suggeted Evanston should follow the example of Boulder, Colorado, which has enacted a temporary ban on buildings taller than 40-feet, Wilson said that such severe growth limits were driving out minority residents and driving up the cost of housing there.

A spokesman for Albion said the firm hopes to start construction on the building by the middle of next year.

An owner of Tommy Nevin’s Pub, one of the restaurants on the site of the new development, told aldermen during public comment that, because of declining business, the restaurant would close next week, regardless of the outcome of Monday’s vote.

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