Owners of The Merion on Chicago Avenue downtown are again seeking city approval to develop their property at 1621 Chicago Ave., some four years after they first unveiled a plan for the site.

During that time the heights of buildings proposed have ranged from 13 to 25 stories. The most recent previous version of the project — for a 17-story building with a porte cochere entrance off Chicago Avenue — was rejected by the City Council’s Planning and Development Committee last October.

The newest plans call for a 13-story building, with underground parking for 37 cars that would be entered from the alley and 6,759 square feet of ground-floor retail space

A street-level rendering, looking northeast.

It also has a more slender profile than earlier plans, with a substantial setback above the first floor from the existing Merion property to the south. Renderings feature an all-glass façade on the upper floors, rather than the mix of brick and other masonry surfaces used in earlier proposals.

The latest design would contain 141 apartments — mostly one-bedroom units, with smaller numbers of two-bedroom and studio units — on floors two through 12, and amenities including a swimming pool and dog run on the top floor.

At 145 feet tall it match the planned development height limit for the D4-zoned site.

As a substitute for the city’s usual inclusionary housing requirements — which would require at least seven affordable units on site and a contribution to the city’s affordable housing fund toward another seven — the developer is proposing to buy and turn over to a new-non-profit owner a 14 unit building at 1415 Howard St.

1415 Howard St.

The developer argues that the Howard Street units would remain available to qualifying low-income household renters in perpetuity, rather than just 30 years as required for on-site affordable units by the inclusionary housing ordinance.

The developer adds that the Howard Street building has recently undergone extensive rehabilitation, is fully-sprinklered and that six of the units are handicap accessible.

The new plans are very early in the review process. The developers have submitted a zoning analysis and city staff is awaiting receipt of revisions to the proposal from the developer. It has not yet been scheduled to start the city’s extensive formal public review process.

Update 1 p.m. 7/19/21: After this story was published, Jonathan Perman, a representative of the development team, called to say that in recent discussions with city staff the developers have dropped plans for the off-site inclusionary housing solution and now plan to provide the inclusionary housing units on site.

Perman says various other details of the project are also being revised.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.