Evanston’s Plan Commission Wednesday will consider a zoning text amendment suggested by Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, that would permit office uses in portions of some high-density residential districts downtown.

The change would remove one barrier to approval of a planned office building at 1714-1720 Chicago Ave.

As originally proposed, the office building plan called for rezoning the property, now commonly referred to as the library parking lot, from the R6 residential zone to the D3 downtown zone.

Opponents collected petition signatures from neighbors, which, under city rules, raised the threshold for approving the zoning map amendment to a three-quarters vote of aldermen — or seven of the nine City Council members.

Changing what’s allowed in the property’s existing zone to permit office developments would remove that obstacle to the development.

But because the parking lot is owned by the city, selling the property to the developer would still require a two-thirds vote by aldermen, or six votes in favor.

Parcels city staff say would be affected by the proposed change are outlined in red.

The concept to be discussed by the Plan Commission would permit office uses without ground floor commercial space in R5 and R6 residential districts that are adjacent to D2 Downtown Retail Core and D3 Downtown Core Development districts.

In addition to the library lot, the change would affect:

  • Other properties on the west side of Chicago Avenue between Church and Clark streets.
  • The former King Home site at 1555 Oak Ave.
  • A courtyard apartment complex at 1576 to 1598 Oak Ave. and 1100 to 1118 Davis St.
  • An apartment building at 1100 Church St.
  • The former Sojourner Church building at 1101 Church St.
  • The condo development at 522 Church St.
  • The Lou Malnati’s restaurant building at 1850-1854 Sherman Ave.
  • The Sherman Gardens co-op buildings at 1856 to 1866 Sherman Ave.

In a memo to the Plan Commission about the proposed change, Community Development Director Johanna Leonard says allowing office uses in a less restrictive manner in areas adjacent to denser downtown development has the potential to meet objectives of the city’s comprehensive plan to retain and attract business to strengthen the city’s economic base while maintaining the appealing character of the city’s neighborhoods.

If the Plan Commission approves the proposed change it would go to the City Council for a final vote.

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Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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