Despite oft-repeated claims, new high-end rental developments in Evanston haven’t destroyed affordable housing. In fact, they generally haven’t destroyed any housing at all.

Here’s a rundown, with pictures, of what used to exist on the sites of major apartment developments constructed this decade in Evanston.

AMLI Evanston – 2013

The six-story AMLI Evanston development at 737 Chicago Ave., shown above, was completed in 2013. It has 214 rental apartments.

Here’s what the site looked like in a 2011 Google Maps photo when it had single-story retail shops and a shuttered auto dealership.

1717 Ridge Apartments – 2013

1717 Ridge is an eight-story building with 175 rental units completed in 2013.

In 2007, when this Google Maps image was taken, the site was a hole in the ground left when construction halted in the Sienna condominium project.

Before that it had been a parking lot for the former Wiebolt’s department store, going back at least to the 1950s.

Central Station – 2013

Central Station, a four-story, 80-unit apartment complex at 1720 Central Street, was completed in 2013.

As shown in this 2007 image, it was built on the site of the shuttered Evanston Theater. One single-family home was also demolished for this development.

E2 – 2015

The twin towers of E2, 14-stories at 1890 Maple Ave. and 16-stories at 1881 Oak Ave., were completed in 2015 and contain 352 rental units.

Cleared decades ago as part of the Research Park development, the 1881 Oak parcel was still just a vacant lot in this 2011 Google Maps photo, while 1890 Maple had a vacant three-story office building.

The Main – 2016

The Main, at 847 Chicago Ave., has 112 apartment units. The nine-story building was completed in 2016.

Turn the Google Maps time machine back to 2007 and we see that it replaced a two-story retail and office building.

1620 Central – 2017

The four-story rental building at 1620 Central St., shown here in a rendering, is leasing up its 47 units this fall.

It was built on the site of a two-story vacant office building which had once been proposed for conversion to a dorm for National Louis University.

Centrum Evanston – 2017

The 12-story, 101-unit Centrum Evanston building at 1571 Maple Ave. is nearing completion this fall.

The property, which also has frontage on Elmwood Avenue and Davis Street, formerly housed a funeral home and its parking lot — which is seen in this 2007 Google Maps photo.

Add it all up, and for the decade so far the tally is 1,081 new housing units added in seven developments, at the cost of one single family home lost.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Luxury Rentals

    Excellent analysis. Many of the buildings replaced derelict commercial properties and one rental building. The 847 Chicago site had a rental building in the rear court yard that was demolished a decade ago because it was a death trap. The old Evanston Theatre building had 6 feet of standing water in the basement while it was still occupied and the attached restaurant had water service provided by a garden hose strung through the basement. Lots of buildings well past there prime that now have new and safe structures to house Evanston residents. The list goes on… Progress must be perceived as good.

    1. Luxury remtals haven’t replaced affordable housing

      While these buildings do provide more housing in our community,  I question the affordability of any of these units. Can someone making  less than the median salary in Evanston live in any of these places and not have housing take up a huge portion of their paycheck? Progress is all well and good, but if people cannot afford to live in them, then the developments are likely to fail.

      1. Affordable rents will one day replace the “luxury” rental prices

        In time all of these new apartments will be older and likely more run down. Consequently, rent prices will drop and maybe even faster if government provides more free housing money to low income folks as more businesses and taxpayers flee Cook County, Chicago and Illinois to avoid the inevitable fiscal disaster it faces. 

        The feds btw plan on taking away the federal tax exemption for folks who pay state income taxes. That will make taxpayers in Ilinois tighten the belts even more or flee the state altogether.

        In about 15-20 years there will be a glut of renters, many likely low to no income, living in downtown Evanston that might at that time have a large commercial vacancy rate as peeps with disposable income will be long gone. I see all of these hundreds of new apartments in a dense area as paving the way for the inevitable ghettoization of Evanston. Long term, no good will come of all these apartments unless they are converted to condos. I could be wrong and I hope I am. My gut says I’m right.

      2. Absolutely ridiculous logic

        Unless people stop wanting to live in Evanston, these properties are not going to remain empty. If rent is too high to attract customers, landlords will reduce the rent.

        If the landlords don’t want to reduce rents, they will go bankrupt. If they took out loans to build these, which is likely, at some point the bank would take over and then the bank would lower rent.

        This is economics 101.

        Of course we need smart planning, but growth is good. Evanston used to be a dump just 20 years ago. I’m sure many of you loved it just the same, but it closed down at 8PM and the best place in town to go out for a drink was the Keg or the Mark II off Howard (Bless the Mark II, best Tombstone pizza in Chicago). These new developments have brought energy into Evanston, along with amazing restaurants and night life options.

         I encourage city council to continue moving this cheese of a town. Allow that Albion building.  The small, but very vocal minority does not speak for everyone.

  2. Housing article

    That is a terrific picture-article and a history/current events education for all Evanstonians. Thanks.

  3. Great analysis

    Great analysis – thank you! Curious why Evanston keeps building expensive luxury rentals downtown rather than condos. Anyone know?

    1. Yes, we have no condos …

      It’s become very difficult, since the real estate market crash last decade, for developers to get financing to build condos, after a lot of developers ended up holding the bag on unsold units when the music stopped.

      The market collapse also drove a lot of people who had bought homes, but lost them in the crash, into the rental housing market. And it made many young adults leery of buying and more inclined to keep renting.

      Result … a boost in demand for new rental construction.

      Given enough time, of course, condos may come back into fashion.

      — Bill

      1. Makes sense- but you’d think there would be more condos

        Makes sense Bill. But I’d think there would be at least 1 new condo building downtown after so many years without. There should be people selling homes and looking for condos in retirement. I wonder if these rentals will really get filled. 

          1. Affordable Housing?

            Housing in Evanston has become less affordable for people even with above median incomes due to the astounding tax inreases that we have had and will see over the next several years. Older people are selling their homes are fleeing the state as the pending financial disaster will only cost residents more and more and make this even less affordable. Frankly, only the wealthy elderly can even consider staying in this town. Evanston’s downtown is seeing more and more vacancies as small businesses are feeling the squeeze. And, with the pending crush of huge buildings, Evanston will be a good place to avoid as the streets are barely passable now during the rush and parking will become even more problematic. One thing that we know for sure is that the developers will get most every variance requested, make their money and be gone. Public infrastructure and services for these towers will not be cheap and the resultant congestion and costs will make living in Evanston even less desirable. Profitable for the few at the expense of the many. 

          2. Yep

            Hi Sage,

            New-construction condos are subject to the same inclusionary housing fee payments as new rental developments — essentially $10K per unit — or a requirement that a tenth of the units on site be “affordable.”

            — Bill

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