Historic preservation activist Judy Fiske says the Plan Commission’s rejection of Smithfield Properties redevelopment proposal for Kendall College offers hope for saving buildings on the site.

The century-old Kendall College administration building

“It’s the first time we’ve heard from the plan commissioners that they are interested in preserving at least one of the buildings,” Ms. Fiske said.

She said the Northeast Evanston Historic District Association, of which she’s a director, wants to retain as many of the historic structures on the site as possible, including the administration building, which has drawn the commissioners’ interest, and the president’s residence.

The commission tonight is scheduled to cast a formal vote on the Kendall project. In an informal vote at their May 31 meeting, the commissioners divided 4 – 1 against the Smithfield plan.

Ms. Fiske says there is precedent in Evanston for creating a mix of new and restored buildings when a site needs to be redeveloped.

The former Cove School mansion

One example, she said, is the former Cove School property on Forest and Judson Avenues at Greenleaf Street.

The school, which provides services for children with learning disabilities, used the century-old mansion and coach house for many years until it moved to Northbrook.

About 1990 the two-acre property was subdivided into nine lots. The developer converted the mansion and coach house into two-unit row houses and built five new single family homes on the site.

A new home on the Cove property faces Greenleaf Street

Another example, Ms. Fiske said, is Lohr Park, the home of an old Evanston family located on Greenwood Street between Ridge and Oak Avenues.

The coach house at Lohr Park

About 1982 the Lohr property was redeveloped as eight condominium units, two in the mansion, two in the coach house and four in new buildings constructed on the 1.8 acre lot.

Plan Commission Chairman Albert Hunter said at the commission’s May 31 meeting that the lack of price diversity was one of his reasons for opposing Smithfield’s proposal – and for disagreeing with the call of neighbors to rezone the entire property R1, for single family homes.

And Cove School and Lohr Park provide examples of more diversity in prices in a redevelopment project.

At the Cove School site, the square footage of the individual units ranges from 2,500 to 5,200 square feet. The current assessed valuations of the properties range from $68,000 to $150,000, a 219 percent variation.

Two new homes on the Cove School property face Judson Avenue.

At Lohr Park, the current assessed valuations range from $29,000 to $105,000, a 267 percent variation.

Smithfield’s plan for the 3.5 acre Kendall site calls for demolishing all the existing structures and building 16 single-family homes and 8 townhouses. The projected prices are about $1.5 million for the single-family homes and $950,000 for the townhouses. Assuming those end up being the actual selling prices, that would be a price variation of 58 percent.

Several plan commissioners have said they would favor a project involving turning the college administration building into condos, building townhouses on the rest of the Orrington Avenue frontage, and single family homes on the remainder of the site.

The Plan Commission’s decisions are advisory. The final decision on planned developments is up to the City Council.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Leave a comment

The goal of our comment policy is to make the comments section a vibrant yet civil space. Treat each other with respect — even the people you disagree with. Whenever possible, provide links to credible documentary evidence to back up your factual claims.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *