Evanston’s Land Use Commission voted 4-3 Wednesday night to recommend that City Council reject plans for a day care center at 3434 Central St.

Most of the objections from commissioners to the Kensington School project centered around existing traffic congestion at the intersection of Central Street and Gross Point Road and fears the day care center’s operation would aggravate those conditions.

The wedge-shaped property is currently the site of a church, Unity on the North Shore.

The Unity Church site on the southwest corner of Central Street and Gross Point Road. (Google Maps image)

Its congregation is declining in size, and church leaders are seeking to sell the property and move to a smaller, more affordable location. They say their more than half-century-old building needs substantial repairs that the congregation can’t afford.

Commission members appeared to agree that the property’s existing R2 single-family zoning is inappropriate for the site and that the likely next use for the property — if not the day care center — is either high-density multi-family housing or a commercial use.

Negotiations for the sale of the property have been complicated by an easement across the church parking lot that provides access to the parking lot for the adjacent co-op apartment building to the south. Unity and the co-op have yet to reach an agreement on relocating that easement.

Several immediate neighbors on the north side of Central Street told commissioners they oppose the project — mainly because of traffic concerns. But the owner of the property just west of the site on the south side of Central voiced support for it.

One additional complicating factor for developing the property is that Gross Point Road is controlled by the Illinois Department of Transportation and IDOT would only approve a right-in-right-out driveway into the property from Gross Point, which forces more traffic for the day care center onto Central Street.

Commissioners who favored the project suggested that the traffic congestion problems at the intersection already exist and that the day care center was unlikely to actually make them worse.

The planned development proposal now moves to the City Council for final action.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. But the fifth ward school was fine. This Commission needs consistency in its decision making and a view on land use that isn’t three decades old.

    1. And a poorly managed 24-7-365 homeless shelter is fine. But a little extra traffic for 15 minutes two times a day, five days a week is not. Priorities, priorities.

      1. It’s even clearer now that the tax paying residents don’t matter to city leaders. Abundant childcare options don’t support the agenda or get us closer to being the next Portland.

  2. Gah, do these people not realize how insanely stupidly expensive daycare is in Evanston?! There needs to be more competition so prices go down. I am so disappointed in the LUC.

    1. This is so out of touch, but I’m hardly surprised. If Evanston wants more families with young children, who will become D65 students, and then ETHS students, they need to make it easy for them to live here. My friend has a 2 year old and is considering moving to… you guessed it… Wilmette, because of the better child care availability.

  3. Sounds like the city needs to do more to support alternatives to driving if this is their logic for making decisions.

    1. That’s an excellent point, Justin. It is not Unity on the Northshore’s responsibility to mitigate an existing problem with traffic and yet they are paying the price.

    2. THANK YOU for saying this!! Our city leaders need to get out of their carbrain mindset. FWIW I live near the proposed site for this daycare and I truly fear for my life regularly as a pedestrian in my own neighborhood. The amount of drivers zooming through here on a daily basis is absolutely sickening. There has to be a better way.

  4. How about Connections for the Homeless build their homeless shelter there instead of at Margarita Inn? Then Mayor Biss would almost get his “wish” as he has said in the past he would welcome a homeless shelter next to his house. This site is just a few blocks away from his home!

  5. I was in attendance for last night’s hearing and am appalled by this result. While the owner of Kensington Schools and the members of Unity on the Northshore provided clearly organized and persuasive facts–in the form of traffic patterns, historical (and favorable) data on property values, and the many steps they’ve taken to appease the neighbors–those against this sale presented hyperbole, conjecture, and hysteria. As our nation continues its march toward divisiveness, I would have hoped that a land use commission here in Evanston would choose logic. Instead, I listened to questions from the commission that were not well thought out, demonstrated a lack of preparedness, or beyond their depth as land use experts (such as questioning an established pre-school organization’s knowledge of student to teacher ratios. This was a very disappointing outcome for a city with significant childcare needs.

  6. An outstanding idea! At least it’s away from my house and downtown. Don’t know what the residents in that neighborhood would say, though.

  7. Well, the LUC vote isn’t binding in any way as far as I understand it — it’s simply a recommendation. So, City Council can vote how it sees fit and the LUC vote was pretty close.

    I agree that adding another daycare would be welcome and the traffic excuse seems like an odd one given all the other development that has occurred around town.

    I have no insights into what City Council members think of it. If the developers committed to hiring M/W/EBEs for construction, funded reparations, or made affordable housing contributions, I’m sure they’d win approval easily.

  8. With this decision there is no way LUC can support the zoning change for Ryan Field to allow concerts given the issues cited with a preschool causing congestion. That said and this being Evanston I am sure LUC will look the other way and allow NU to do what ever they want. Ugh

  9. Y’all were not worried about the traffic congestion in the 5th ward when y’all voted to put that building on the corner of church and Darrow or worried about meeting zoning requirements
    Ugghhh all these people in Evanston care about is the wealthy people and their areas
    This has to stop

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