Owners of several properties on a half-block stretch of Pitner Avenue will ask the Evanston Zoning Committee tonight to permit live-work lofts in the area that now is zoned only for industrial uses.

Cinema Business Condos at 930 Pitner Ave.

The view down the block from the Cinema Business Condos, 930 Pitner Ave.

The area, running from the alley north of Main Street to Lee Street on the west side of Pitner, now has a mix of commercial uses, ranging from an auto body shop to the offices of a landscaping firm.

But a building on the block, at 930 Pitner once used by a film production firm, has recently been renovated by architect Andy Spatz and turned into the Cinema Business Condos.

Spatz told the Zoning Committee last month that, while the new business condos have sold well, in the process of marketing them he heard from many potential buyers who wanted spaces where they could both live and work.

Spatz has since bought the building next door at 940 Pitner and is hoping to turn that property into a condo development as well.

Spatz said he has support from owners in the new condos and from Joseph Birgman, who owns the building at 920 Pitner that houses a furniture refinishing business.

But Joel Johnson, of Nels J. Johnson Tree Experts, Inc., at 912 Pitner, said he’s opposed to the zoning change.

Nels J. Johnson office
The Nels J. Johnson office.

He said it’s already hard for his 40 to 60 employees to find parking on the block, and he voiced fears that adding residential uses would make a bad parking situation worse.

Spatz said the his development would provide all the parking required under the zoning code. Both owners agreed that much of the parking pressure comes from an auto body shop around the corner on Main Street, which they said stores vehicles on Pitner when it doesn’t have enough room on its property.

The proposed zoning change would switch the properties from I2 Industrial zoning to the city’s recently adopted MXE Mixed Use Employment District zone.

Pitner and Lee
Looking south from Pitner Avenue and Lee Street.

Zoning Administrator Bill Dunkley said “it’s a very interesting area” that represents “almost a textbook application of what the MXE district was written for.

He said the change would likely broaden the economic capabilities of the properties by expanding their possible uses.

After action by the Zoning Committee and the full Plan Commission the proposal would require approval by the City Council to be added to the city’s zoning code. 

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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