Developer Jeff Michael faced a tough crowd Tuesday night at a 1st Ward meeting.
Michael’s Horizon Realty Group is seeking to build an 18-story, 180-unit apartment building at 1621 Chicago Ave.
He’s been pushing various plans for the site since 2017, and his last design died in a City Council committee in 2020.
With half a decade to organize, opponents of the project were in no mood to accept the new plan, although it is in some respects scaled down from the proposal the Council rejected.
The new proposal calls for including 18 on-site affordable units in the development — 13 as required by the city’s inclusionary housing ordinance — and five additional units as a public benefit.
Ald. Clare Kelly (1st) falsely claimed during the meeting that all 18 units were required under the city ordinance, until a city staffer explained that the ordinance offers developers who provide 10% affordable units on site a bonus of four additional market-rate units for each affordable unit.
So, with a base unit count of 128 units, and 10% — or 13 of those designated as affordable — the project qualifies to include 13×4 or 52 additional market rate units with no additional affordable housing obligation under the code.
Martha Rudy, a staffer with Habitat for Humanity in Chicago, falsely claimed that the calculation of what counts as an affordable unit under the law is based on the median income in Evanston, so that adding new market-rate units at the site would make the “affordable” units less affordable.
In fact, the calculation of affordable rental rates by the government is based on area median income — which means the rates for Evanston’s 78,000 residents are the same as those for the other 5.1 million residents of Cook County.
When Michael challenged some speakers’ claims during the meeting, several attendees said his attitude should lead the city to reject the project.
“This is the third call I have been on,” Jeremy Vannatta wrote in the chat, “I do not appreciate your tone, Jeff.”
And Jenny Washburn wrote, “If this is the tone he takes with us, imagine how his tenants must feel. Take this behavior into consideration.”
Most speakers at the meeting, which drew an online crowd of about 70, simply don’t want anything tall built on the site.
The Rev. Grace Imathiu of 1st United Methodist Church, across an alley to the east of the site, said the building would cast a shadow on the church.
Some residents who themselves live in downtown high-rises said they oppose additional high-rise construction.
And some residents who live in expensive single-family homes objected to construction of what they called “luxury” apartments, though those rents would likely be less than the carrying costs for the sort of home they live in.
Others claimed that the building would add to parking congestion downtown, although city officials have noted that with the pandemic-induced decline in office occupancy, the city has ample spaces available in its downtown garages.
But not quite everyone who attended the meeting opposed the project.
Joy Schwabach wrote in a chat message during the Zoom meeting, “I used to live in the Park Evanston high-rise across the street from it, and I worried about my view being blocked. But I think it’s a great idea. More housing will drive down prices and bring in revenue.”
The next step in the review process for the planned development is a hearing before the Land Use Commission. That’s tentatively scheduled for Wednesday, Aug. 10.