City Council members, who have welcomed a homeless shelter and a subsidized housing project to Evanston in recent months, rejected a new luxury residential development Monday night.

The 15-story, 140-unit Legacy project from Horizon Realty Group at 1621-1631 Chicago Ave. — which would have included 10 affordable units — drew a thumbs down on a five-to-one vote at the Planning and Development Committee and failed to even win introduction for discussion at the full City Council meeting.

All three projects — the Margarita Inn homeless shelter on Oak Avenue, the Housing Opportunity Development Corporation subsidized housing development on Church Street, and the market-rate Legacy project — faced fierce opposition from some neighbors. But only for the Chicago Avenue development did council members bow to neighbors’ concerns.

For most alders, worries about the height of the building outweighed any interest in bringing new residents downtown to help revive a shopping district suffering from a lack of customers as many office workers continue to work from home.

Only Ald. Devon Reid (8th) spoke in favor of the project, saying the Downtown Plan, that some council members cited as a reason to oppose new building, wasn’t “equity focused” and that, as the area of the city most connected to public transit, downtown should have higher housing density.

Meanwhile, the Council Monday also voted to spend $4 million of city funds to support the planned 33-unit HODC development at 1811-1815 Church St.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. This was interesting to me as many concerns that we’re brought up by my group on church and Darrow where the same in this scenario and they rejected this proposal but moved forward with the church and Darrow project! These are the double standards we face every day!

    1. Church and Darrow had is getting a 4 story building. The one rejected on Chicago Ave. was proposed to be 15 stories. I don’t buy that shows a double standard. If the council had rejected a proposal for a 4-story building at that site, then yeah it would be.

    2. Evanston leadership is completely lost .. They are only interested in showing they are helping people in need, which is admirable but we also need income in order to do that.
      Approving homeless shelters and low income housing but denying the opportunity for Evanston to add new housing stock (including 10 low income units!) in this struggling town is unconscionable. We need the tax revenue desperately.

  2. The stopped clock that is Devon Reid is accurate twice a day. The NIMBYs who for years have been demanding downtown office space, instead of housing, have not altered their positions despite the nationwide glut in office space due to teleworking .

    “Only Ald. Devon Reid (8th) spoke in favor of the project, saying the Downtown Plan, that some council members cited as a reason to oppose new building, wasn’t “equity focused” and that, as the area of the city most connected to public transit, downtown should have higher housing density.”

  3. This was absolutely the right decision. I am proud of the Council’s action.
    Does the city need more residential development in the downtown, more affordable housing? Yes. But not at the expense of any rational, sensitive and aesthetic approach to land use policy and appropriately scaled development. Cut off your nose to spite your face? More like grow your nose to unreal length to spite your face.

  4. Nice work city council and NIMBYs. Now all of us will pay higher property taxes than we would otherwise pay due to the failure to expand the tax base.

    We will have that many fewer residents to patronize local businesses which will translate to lower sales tax revenues as well, which the rest of us will have to make up for.

    1. Sorry, David, but we Evanston tax payers are just not as important as the out – of – town homeless. But please do kindly move aside, and continue to vote for the current crop of Evanston virtue – signaling municipal officials…

      Gregory Morrow – Evanston 4th Ward resident

  5. Great report on this. It’s interesting that the Council was willing to listen to neighbors on some issues but not on others.

    1. What happened what’s that the 1st ward council member listened to her residents while the 5th ward council member did not! So if the council member listens to their residents the rest of the council members follow the lead! Messed up really

  6. Not following this exactly, I think the big question is “Why”? Why does a “15-story, 140-unit Legacy project from Horizon Realty Group at 1621-1631 Chicago Ave. — which would have included 10 affordable units — [draw] a thumbs down on a five-to-one vote at the Planning and Development Committee…” Surely height of the structure is not the only consideration, there must be something else going on here.

    1. The council is anti-luxury and anti-business. They seem to only approve city-subsidized homeless shelters and low income housing. They won’t stop until they’ve completed downgraded our property values and turned Evanston into Rogers Park.

  7. I’m not sure in what world providing 10 of 200 units as “affordable” is a public benefit that is so great that the City should turn a blind eye to how poorly designed this building was. Does this location demand and support higher density than a one-part commercial building, of course. Is affordable housing important, of course. Is creating an increase in the taxable value of the land here important to maintain city services, of course. However, all of these things couls be provided within a well designed building that respects its surroundings. In fact, I believe this building, if it were more appropriately designed could have overcome a lot of the neighbors concerns, but a glass cube atop an inactive (second and third floors) concrete panel parking structure and podium is not that, and this is the result. The developer has no one to blame except themselves and their design team.

    1. Perhaps you would you like to provide a few examples of buildings you think are well designed that deliver an equivalent number of dwelling units and above-ground parking spaces on a similar size site?
      — Bill

      1. Many examples outside of Evanston, and many in Chicago, that anyone could google. In Evanston, Vogue was what 120 units and actually provided more affordable housing than the one on Chicago (12 vs 10). I believe it was 6 stories. Imagine something similar to that but maybe 8 to 10 stories, maybe the chicago site is not as deep, so the added height makes sense. Contextual materials, contextual size, activates the street. They could have proposed less parking in general, or to lease off-site spaces to mitigate traffic and congestion concerns in the alley and along Chicago Ave, and that would have allowed them to alter the way the podium was designed and to reduce the overall height. There are many alternatives that could have been proposed.

        1. Vogue building rendering:
          Vogue building rendering
          Legacy building rendering:
          Legacy building rendering
          So, basically what “Observer” wants to do is take the eight-story slab façade of the addition to The Merion and replicate it two more times across the 1621-1631 Chicago property.
          Sorry, but that’s not my idea of an attractive streetscape!
          — Bill

          1. Hmm. Thanks for trying to interpret what I was saying, but not quite what I was imagining Bill. I was simply identifying a building that had similar density that was designed to be contextual and also activate the street. Although, since you mentioned it even when I didn’t, there are qualities of the merion addition that are good, such as its contextual height, materials, and activation of the street at floors 2 and 3 with residences and balconies instead of a lifeless parking structure. Maybe these are reasons it got approved. I think another nice example in Evanston is the Scholar Apartments at Elmwood and Davis.

          2. Contextual? The Vogue building is five stories tall. Most other buildings on that block of Main Street are two stories tall. Of the others, two have three stories and one is a single story. So the Vogue building is more than twice as tall as the median building height on the block.
            The existing buildings on the Chicago Avenue block range from one to 24 stories with one at six and two at eight stories. That makes the Legacy building more “contextual” with regard to height than the Vogue building is on its block, and equally contextual just looking at the east side of the block.
            There’s plenty of room to quibble about details of the design of any building. But always preferring the shortest possible structure that will accommodate a given cube of rentable space is not a path to outstanding design or an interesting streetscape.
            For some context you might consider a story in Governing today about the boring streetscapes created by the more than century-old height restrictions in Washington, D.C.
            — Bill

  8. Downtown Evanston badly needs a shot in the arm. The proposed building, just shot down, would have helped greatly.
    Lynne Heidt

  9. Misguided conservatism on the part of the Council. The city needs tax base, our businesses need patrons, and our downtown needs the vitality of more pedestrian traffic. They’ve rejected a development that could have accelerated Evanston’s recovery.

  10. As a relatively new resident who is in favor of social programs I am also in favor of some help for paying for them. This looks like it would have accomplished increasing demand for downtown business and a significant increase in property taxes. It would be great if the city council took a more pragmatic approach to helping the city grow in ways we can afford.

  11. It’s important to note that the majority Council votes went the way of supporting the position of each Council Member regarding their respective proposals in their Ward. I.e Nieuwsma (4th) supported the Margarita Inn; Council Member Burns (5th) supported the HODC/Mt. Pisgah project on Church in the 5th; Council Member Kelly (1st Ward) opposed the Chicago Avenue high rise in her ward and so did most of her constituents. It is clearly very important what position the Council Member takes whose ward a proposal is in.

    Respectfully submitted, Brian G. Becharas

  12. Lost in this discussion is the fact that downtown businesses are losing customers because the swarms of panhandlers are driving customers away. Who wants to walk around with money and credit cards when they can bank on being surrounded and harassed by homeless junkies and mental cases? As long as people don’t feel safe downtown, they’ll head out to…Wilmette, etc. Like I do. I used to go to Evanston Jewel. No more! At the Wilmette Jewel, there’s a bigger selection, longer hours open, and not a whole crew of beggars descending on me as I try to get in the door without having my wallet snatched. As long as I don’t feel safe downtown, I’ll take my business elsewhere. Building more affordable housing high rises downtown won’t revitalize it, it will only drive out more paying customers. The proposed buildings had inadequate parking. The smaller parking spaces are barely wide enough to squeeze in a motorcycle, so more cars will be fighting over scant street parking spaces. We now have mental cases threatening people with ice picks to get free food? How can anyone feel like coming downtown in these circumstances? NIMBY, without apologies.

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