The proposed new entrance on the Maple Avenue side of the YMCA building.

Plans for a $12.6 million renovation of the men’s residences at the McGaw YMCA cleared a city regulatory hurdle Tuesday.

Evanston’s Design and Project Review Committee recommended that the Land Use Commission approve two zoning variations the Y is requesting for the project.

One variation would let the YMCA construct a new entrance for the men’s residences on the Maple Avenue side of the five-story YMCA building that would extend to the property line, instead of being setback 15 feet as required by the zoning code.

The other variation would permit building lot coverage of 60.22% where the zoning code limits lot coverage to 50%

Dick Lehner

Architect Dick Lehner said the overall project would substantially upgrade the single-room-occupancy residences in the nearly century-old YMCA building and provide renovated kitchenette and bathroom spaces.

Lehner, of LCM Architects said the new entrance on Maple would give the building residents their own entry to the building for the first time.

They now share the building’s main entrance on Grove Street with participants in various other programs at the center.

The new entrance would link to new kitchen, mailbox, bike storage and meeting room spaces on the lower level of the building and provide direct access to an existing elevator that connects to the SRO rooms on the third through fifth floors of the building.

Lehner added that by removing some existing paving on the site the project will lead to a modest net reduction in the impervious surface area on the YMCA property.

Angel Schnur, who heads the city’s property standards maintenance unit, said that having inspected the building over the years, “I’m excited to see the improvements” for the Y and the men who live there.

After discussing issues around maintaining the sidewalk in front of the planned new entry and whether it would be advantageous to landmark the building, the committee unanimously voted to recommend approval of the zoning variations to the Land Use Commission, which will be the determining body for the requests.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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