Most people who’ve bought new condos in downtown Evanston in the past few years already lived on the North Shore, and they’re largely a mix of young professionals and empty-nesters.

Those are among the findings in a new city survey of residents of five large downtown condo buildings completed between 2002 and 2005.

Most people who’ve bought new condos in downtown Evanston in the past few years already lived on the North Shore, and they’re largely a mix of young professionals and empty-nesters.

Those are among the findings in a new city survey of residents of five large downtown condo buildings completed between 2002 and 2005.

Preliminary results of the study were released at a Downtown Plan Committee meeting today.

The survey drew a 40 percent response rate from residents of the five buildings — Optima Horizon at 800 Elgin Road, Optima Towers at 1580 Sherman Ave., Optima Views at 1720 Maple Ave., Church Street Station at 1640 Maple Ave. and the Roszak/ADC building at 1572 Maple Ave.

Among the adults in the new condo households, 43 percent are between 22 and 39 years old, and another 39 percent are 55 or over. Only 3 percent are 18 to 21 years old, and just under 15 percent are in the 40 to 54 age bracket.

About 31 percent of the survey respondents said they moved from another home in Evanston, 20 percent from another North Shore suburb, 14 percent from the City of Chicago, 14 percent from elsewhere in Illinois and 16 percent from another state. Five percent didn’t respond to that question.

Only about one condo household in ten included any children.

The study suggests Evanston’s downtown population grew by nearly 28 percent as the result of the completion of those five buildings.

The 2000 U.S. Census showed roughly 4,300 people in the blocks city officials now consider to constitute the downtown area.

Projecting from the 40 percent response rate to the city survey, it appears those five buildings house nearly 1,200 total residents on what had been vacant properties in 2000.

The racial distribution of the new residents is roughly equivalent to those living downtown in 2000, although there are fewer black residents in the new buildings.

The 2000 census reported 76.4 percent of downtown residents were white, 14.5 percent were Asian and 4.4 percent were black, with the rest either of other racial groups or mixed racial backgrounds.

Among respondents to the new survey, 78.1 percent identified themselves as white, 14.4 percent as Asian and 1.1 percent as black.

The average household size among the new condo dwellers is about 1.77 persons per household, smaller than the 2.27-person average household size for Evanston as a whole reported by the 2000 Census.

Among those who reported paid employment, about one-third said they work in Evanston, another third work in Chicago and the rest work in another suburb.

Among those who work in Evanston, about a third worked from home and another third work elsewhere in downtown Evanston.

Driving was the most common means of getting to work listed by survey respondents, who were free to specify more than one choice. Of all the responses, 47 percent specified driving, 34 percent said they take mass transit, 17 percent said they walk to work and just 2 percent said they bike to work.
Only three percent of households surveyed don’t own a car, 60 percent said they have one car for the household, 30 percent have two and 2 percent have three or more cars.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. I thought the new residents were here to help the poor?
    I remember at one council meeting a council member stated the new condo residents were here to pay taxes to help the poor. (ie. more social services)It is very clear to me the council has had no plan for the influx of new residents. That is they have no plan to create a liveable downtown they want to just allow it to happen. Beyond the increase in human population I would estimate there are 600 new dogs and cats in town. Did the city have any plan for the dogs in the down town? People might think thats silly – but they will definely have an effect. But beyond that the council thinks it is ok for developers to lease space in the public garages it appears to me they need to require them to build all the require parking in thier projects given the numbers I see.

    1. downtown demographics
      The survey of downtown residents has some interesting implications touched upon by Jeff Smith in an earlier comment.

      As DINKS, emptynesters and taxpayers how receptive will they be to any school funding referenda? Consider their response to EVMark funding.

      What will be their attitude towards mass transportaion since the majority drive and many own at least two cars, some three?

      They probably have their waste picked up by a private hauler, what does that imply?

      Since their gardens are at best potted plants, what are their views on trees?

      It seems their interests may diverge from other property owners and that will impact the traditional character of Evanston.


      1. Residency tests?
        Hi Vito,
        You seem to be proposing a set of litmus tests for people to qualify for Evanston residency.

        I thought part of Evanston’s vaunted diversity was to be welcoming to people of different backgrounds and viewpoints.

        And how different, really, are car-driving, empty-nester condo owners from car-driving, empty-nester single-family homeowners?

        You really think their lack of a garden plot out back makes them unacceptable as Evanstonians?

        And given what a tax curmudgeon you are, I would think you’d welcome more folks you think would oppose tax hike referendums.

        — Bill

  2. Socio-economic factors?
    Bill, your report didn’t mention anything about the socio-economic status of these new downtown condo dwellers. Although it’s probably predictable, I would like to see any available statistics.

    1. Not part of the survey
      Hi Kristin,
      The survey didn’t ask about income, assets, level of education or other socio-economic indicators.

      Two pieces of data that didn’t make it into the story:

      Among the adults, 45 percent are male, 54 percent female and 1 percent didn’t answer the gender question.
      And 15 percent of the adults listed their occupation (or one of their occupations) as “student.”

      — Bill

      1. students?
        Bill this is interesting since many students are most likely to move once they graduate. I would guess they are older well off students going to professional school or parents purchase the property for investment. This is very interesting since it points to a larger percent of new residents likely to move sooner than might occur in an area without a large university.

  3. Demographics and affordable housing?
    Bill and Vito, I like to believe that people can stretch their minds and hearts to vote positively for issues that don’t affect them, but DO affect society at large (such as public school funding, public transportation, and trees). In other words, please don’t judge a person based on their demographic.

    The thing I am concerned about (and this was the reason behind my socio-economic question above), is whether there are any affordable units included in these new downtown developments. Are we just replicating the already stark split between where the affordable housing is “acceptable” and where it won’t be tolerated? If Evanston is to pursue its interest in preserving affordable housing, it MUST spread it more equitably across the city.

    1. Depends on what you mean by affordable
      Hi Kristin,
      All the buildings surveyed were approved before the city adopted its “inclusionary housing ordinance.”
      So none of them have units officially designated as affordable.
      In fact, the recently proposed Fountain Square tower is the first condo project to hit the pipeline since the ordinance was approved. There’s been no word yet on how the developers plan to address the affordability requirement in that project.
      On the other hand, for those who can squeeze their lives into a smaller space, downtown condos are typically cheaper than the single-family homes in most Evanston neighborhoods. So they are relatively affordable housing in that sense.
      One can speculate that a lot of the empty-nester condo buyers are trying to downsize to reduce living costs in retirement, while a lot of the young professionals buying condos are doing so because they can’t yet afford a single-family home in Evanston.
      But the survey data doesn’t really address that.
      — Bill

    2. Reply to Bill and Kristin
      First a reply to Bill.

      Where did I endorse or propose a residency test? I was just extrapolating what I thought their response might be to certain areas of tax funding because of their location and family status. Tch tch.

      Kristin, as someone who has been here over four decades, I have seen the disconnect between intention and execution. Inclusionary zoning is seen as a “good” and Evanston passes a law (after much legal fumbling). One of the intentions is to spread this housing across the city.

      The reality is that this applies only to units larger than 24 units. Given that condo conversions have been going on for many years it is unlikely that many are left that may be subject to this. New condos that could have been subject have been built, primarily in the downtown area. What proposed developments have been revealed are in the downtown area.

      Other areas of the city such as the 6th and 7th wards are heavily R1 or have zoning that precludes anything as large as > 24 units. No one is going to buy an expensive house and sell it at a loss to be inclusionary. The 2nd, 5th and 8th wards are affordable and in some parts low income. The 3rd and 4th (where I live and am being driven out by taxes) wards are mixed, but unliklely candidates for large units, especially given the housing market trends. The 1st ward is downtown and NU.

      In reality I think the mayor’s idea of buying houses and rehabbing them for this program is the most realistic approach. It does not anywhere meet your desire to spread this across the city.

  4. The council is all too will to spend anyone’s $’s but thier own!
    On affordable housing the council is happy to pass ordinances that push the cost off on the developers. They are not spending thier own money on this.
    The units in the large high rise will not be affordable – they will have high condo assessment fees,will the people who can not afford to buy the units in the first place be able to pay the fees?

    As for affordable housing all over town it reminds me of those who wanted to create 60/40 in the public schools mostly white parents in south evanston who could not get the transfers to the magnet schools. Those that want affordable housing all over town I believe in many cases live in areas with problems – they have a belief it will spread the problems out,very unrealistic!

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