A feasibility report prepared by developers of the planned 831 Emerson St. high-rise in Evanston sees high demand for the new building based on generally high occupany rates at other large, relatively new rental projects in the city located close to transit stations.


The report, included in materials for Wednesday night’s Plan Commission meeting reviewing the project, cites as examples:

  • 1717 Ridge Ave., completed in 2013, with a walkscore of 92 and a 91 percent occupancy rate.
  • E2, at 1890 Maple Ave., completed in March, with a walkscore of 92 and already up to a 79 percent occupancy rate.
  • Evanston Place, at 1715 Chicago Ave., completed in 1998, with a walkscore of 93 and a 97 percent occupancy rate.
  • The Park Evanston, at 1630 Chicago Ave., completed in 1997, with a walkscore of 94 and a 95 percent occupancy rate.
  • AMLI Evanston, at 737 Chicago Ave., completed in 2013, with a walkscore of 79 and a 95 percent occupancy rate.
  • Central Station, at 1720 Central St., completed in 2013, with a walkscore of 82 and a 98 percent occupancy rate.
  • The Reserve, at 1930 Ridge Ave., completed in 2004, with  walkscore of 76 and a 91 percent occupancy rate.

However the report, in estimating demand for the student-oriented housing the 831 Emerson developers plan to deliver, makes what appears to be one significant error in its analysis.

The view northeast from the Elgin Road CTA viaduct today in an image from Google Maps.

It asserts that there are over 21,000 Northwestern University students looking for housing in Evanston.

But that number is based on the university’s total enrollment — without subtracting the nearly 6,000 students on the Chicago campus, roughly a dozen miles to the south.

That suggests that while the developers estimate they would only need to capture a little under 3 percent of the available demand to fill their planned project, the actual capture ratio needed would be closer to 4.5 percent.

Opponents of the project have cited the university’s plan to construct new dorms and require all freshman and sophomore students to live on campus as an indication of declining demand for off-campus housing.

While the university has stressed that its undergraduate enrollment has remained relatively stable for many years, the developer notes that the school’s total enrollment — including graduate students — has has increased by 23 percent over the past decade. The enrollment growth on the Evanston campus has been just under 16 percent during that time.

The developers anticipate in their projections that the recent growth in total student enrollment at NU will continue for several years into the future.

More coverage of the 831 Emerson project

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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