Developer David Wallach says it will be a “pocket neighborhood.”

13 micro homes, 13 x 32 feet each. Two bedrooms. One bathroom. A 10-car parking garage. Green space. And, Wallach told a 7th Ward residents meeting on Tuesday night, his proposed site is “the perfect location for this.”

Developer David Wallach addresses 7th Ward meeting at Civic Center Tuesday night. Ald. Eleanor Revelle is also at the front of the room.

Wallach’s Blue Paint Development wants to put in what the city officially calls “efficiency homes” in the 1900 block of Grant Street, currently occupied by a house that would come down, and a vacant lot.

1915-1917 Grant St. Credit: Google

The city still needs to sign off on a zoning change, approve the design, and review potential issues such as water runoff before the project could be built. There’s no timetable yet for any votes.

The $3 million development would have ten detached homes at street level, and three more detached units on top of the parking garage in the rear of the project.

Interior mockup.

No basements, but there is storage space.

At around $300,000 apiece, the “market driven” units should “go very quickly,” Wallach said.

“You have people who want to live in Evanston, but can’t afford it,” he added.

With space in between the small units along with paved paths, “the point,” Wallach said, “is to make it walkable and not just jam things in.”

The property is about 100 feet wide and unusually deep for Evanston at about 300 feet. The site is flanked by townhomes on each side, but located in an otherwise primarily single-family neighborhood.

There were some neighborhood questions, about traffic and water runoff.

The two lots just east of the development site. Five townhomes at 1907 to 1911 Grant, and GionMatthias Schelbert’s home at 1905 Grant. Credit: Google.

GionMatthias Schelbert lives two doors away from the proposed development.

“I’m very skeptical,” he said, disagreeing with the developer that the homes would not be jammed into a small parcel.

Schelbert said a couple of single-family houses would make more sense on the site.

“To me,” he said, “this is just a money grab.”

Not so, said Wallach, who said he is not asking for any city subsidy, and expects the micro homes will not only sell, but add to the city’s tax base.

He also stressed that these units are assembled on site, and not simply built in a factory and trucked in whole.

Some units like that, Wallach said, are terrible, “and candidly, I would not let my dog live in some of the housing that’s being built.”

There are a small number of “pocket neighborhoods” in the U.S., including Chicago.

However, Wallach said historically, zoning laws were designed to keep some people out, by mandating minimum lot size, which led to housing prices many could not afford.

Wallach said there’s a “tremendous need” for micro house projects, but “there are communities that don’t have the balls to do it.”

He’s hoping Evanston will say yes.

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Join the Conversation


      1. Hi M B,
        While the 7th Ward generally is very light on affordable housing, compared to other areas of Evanston, it is worth noting that there are a pair of Housing Authority of Cook County affordable duplexes at 1900 and 1904 Grant, just across the street from the new proposed development.
        — Bill

  1. Eleanor Revelle has made numerous comments about the necessity of affordable housing. Her ward has very little. It also has no homeless shelter or homeless services. She cast THE deciding vote on the Margarita Inn for a zoning variance in a special use application DESPITE numerous ethics complaints. She has extolled the virtues of the work done by Connections for the Homeless, and given them hefty donations. Connections for the Homeless is advocating for a new zoning code based on “equity” and has refused alternative locations at a lower price for their shelter because they were in areas that already had too many low-income residents and were primarily “brown and black,” and did not further Evanston’s commitment toward “equity” in zoning. Revelle’s ward is not primarily “brown and black” nor “low income.” With a dearth of anything affordable in her Ward, everyone is expecting Revelle to use this opportunity to bring a shelter and/or affordable housing into her ward. A home at $300,000 is not affordable housing. Eleanor Revelle, what you support both with your money and your vote, you should bring to your own backyard.

    1. Dear 4th ward- not sure what your ranting point is…. did Eleanor say she was against this? Is the owner looking to build a homeless shelter and she is saying no? It seems the owner wants to build a more affordable (maybe not true “affordable”) housing community in the 7th ward. Based on your rant, I would assume you’d support this but it seems you don’t.

  2. Alderman Revelle is bringing what she supports” to her own back yard” by supporting this development and in her Ward. Affordability is relative to the neighborhood. Teardowns in the 7th ward cost more than $300k(if you can even find one) and then get purchased by developers and become $1.x million dollar homes for the affluent. On top of that this is new construction for $300k in a great neighborhood. It’s as affordable as realistically possible today.

  3. Yesterday’s meeting was disappointing. I thought this was going to be about affordable housing. No matter how you spin it, $300,000 is not affordable, and I’d love to meet one person who’d pay that much for 350 square feet of living space. There are normal sized homes in Evanston for less. We need to stop being so obsessed with single family homes. There are other forms of home ownership that don’t take up so much space but are also not ridiculously small. I’m not against micro-homes, but they should be sold at a micro price.

    1. The dimensions specified in the story — 13’x32′ — works out to 416 square feet, not 350. Still very small.
      If there’s no market for them at $300K, the developer will have to lower the price to get them sold.
      Zillow currently lists two detached single family homes for sale in Evanston for less than $300,000. And they aren’t in the 7th Ward.

      — Bill

  4. Will these tiny homes have tiny property tax bills? Or tiny wheel tax for the ten cars in the garage? The price of (regular sized) homes isn’t the only thing that makes Evanston unaffordable.

    Also, look at the artists rendering- I’m pretty sure those trees are closer than 25’ to the tiny homes. Is the new Tree Police going to stand for this?

  5. Remember the song “ Little boxes 📦 n the hillside, little boxes made of tickee tac”. So they are not Made in the factory but the walls are brought from the factory

  6. I am usually in favor of building stuff, and I am in favor of this. I wonder why the developer wants tiny houses instead of an apartment building, which is the standard solution to bring modestly priced housing to market.

  7. Look at how this proposed project will look. Is this truly what we want Evanston to be? Let’s put aside the rhetoric, “Brown and Black”, “Most Vulnerable”, etc. etc. and focus on what we want Evanston to be.
    I like Evanston pretty much the way it is. That’s why I moved here. The changes driven by this council are upsetting and make me wish I were in Naperville. Soon I may be.

  8. Until Evanston reexamines disastrous R1 and R2 designations, solutions like this are a very practical approach to providing “Evanston-affordable” housing. This parcel is near school, bike paths, transit, and Central’s retail. It would be ridiculous to waste it on two families when more can benefit.

  9. This City is only 7.8 square miles. Evanston has at least three dozen DDS/DMD. Numerous Pace bus routes accessible within EV which serve Medicaid recipients free and/or reduced fares with additional special transport for disabled. be aware if you vote- a MOBILE DENTAL VAN for $2.5 million “participatory fed funds” OR ANY PORTION THEREOF is going to service one category of new out of town residents who reside in and are invited here to (Medicaid) homeless Shelters and rehab category. This fed tax money via ARPA will service a new group being enticed here for free services so please do not perpetuate this. For two years?? then pleading for taxes federal and local. Medical vans paid with government monies of any tax category are legitimate in indigent very rural communities with little or no public transportation.

  10. Am I missing something here? Affordable housing micro homes for $300K. Nope! Where do I vote at. Since when is a studio sized home for $300K affordable? Evanston has become the town of unaffordable housing. These cash hungry developers are not making this town better. I can name several recent projects that have been dumpster fires. I am still waiting to hear about why the retirement apartments are not renewing seniors leases. The developers brainy ideas under the banner of “affordable housing” are simply a disguise for give me your money. I am not a fan.

    1. Hi E-Town resident,
      Your alternative? The developer could by right build a $1 million to $1.5 million single family home on each of the two lots. You would prefer that? Feels more affordable to you?
      There’s no indication so far that this developer is seeking a city subsidy for the project — although that’s always something to check on.
      — Bill

  11. You can buy 1-bdrm condos in evanston, twice the size of these “micro-homes”, for less than $300K. These miniscule homes will cost around $700 per sq ft, an outrageous price. This isn’t Manhattan, it’s Evanston Illinois, and anyone who would support building homes with less than 500 sq ft, at a price of $700 per sq ft, is out of their mind.

    1. Hi Channah,
      Just to be clear, nobody is asking you to “support” the project with your money.
      The privately-funded developer is free to fall flat on his face if he over-prices his product.
      Is your objection only to the price, or is it also to the idea of having more than one dwelling unit on a lot?
      — Bill

      1. I doubt people will be beating a path to buy them at that price. What will happen to them then? I’ve lived through the experience of having a developer go bankrupt when his project fails and it’s a disaster for those who bought into the project and are left with empty, often unfinished, homes around them. The value of their home can fall by 40-50%, and years can go by before another developer comes in and finishes the rest of the property. Typically, developers use the proceeds from selling one unit to pay down their construction loans along the way, or they use the proceeds to finance the construction of other units. When units don’t sell, the ongoing costs push them under.
        When developers “fall flat on their face” they are not the only ones to suffer! Pricing these units at $700 per sq ft is totally out of line with the market, and when the project fails, it will look like a run-down trailer lot in the middle of a nice neighborhood.

        1. Hi Channah,
          It’s not the city’s job to determine what an owner should sell a property for. If you own a house, you would be extremely unhappy to have the city limit the price you could get when you sell it.

          I just looked at the prices listed for prefab ADUs on one manufacturer’s site and found that a 400 square foot unit with a kitchen and bath, but no other interior partitions, would run around $300 per square foot. (No idea whether this is the manufacturer the developer plans to use.)

          The total square footage of these 13 structures will be around 5,400 square feet. That’s roughly equivalent to two slightly large than average new single family homes — which would have a total of two kitchens and maybe six baths. But this development will have 13 kitchens and 13 baths — and those are the most expensive parts of any residential construction project.

          If you add the cost of land, plus the cost of building foundations, installing utilities, shipping and assembling the homes on site, getting city approvals, constructing the garages, and a reasonable profit for the developer … the price is going to be much higher on a square foot basis than it would be for a 2,700 square foot single family home.

          So, I have no idea whether $700 per square foot is a price at which these little homes would sell. But I’m convinced they can’t be built for what I suspect you think they should sell for.

          And if houses could only be built and sold for what some random neighbor thought was a “fair” price, nothing would ever be built in Evanston, because we all think prices are too high here — except when it comes time to sell our own homes.

          — Bill

          1. I’ve thought about your comments, and continue to disagree. The City has to decide what its goal is when making zoning changes. If the goal is affordable housing, then to maximize that benefit, apartments/condos would do a much better job for more people at a much better price.
            To me, this is what zoning changes are all about. Whether it’s the height of buildings, how many parking spaces, or how many units, thoughtful zoning first sets goals for an area, and then makes zoning changes as needed to further those goals.

          2. Hi Channah,
            Hypothetically such a “rational” approach seems appealing.
            But in practice it generally yields the exclusionary zoning that is largely responsible for the affordable housing crisis here and across the nation.
            The people setting the policy tend to most strongly represent current homeowners whose financial interests are served by the rapidly rising home prices created by a housing shortage.

            At some point the city decided that the block where this project is located should be zoned R3 — which is defined as “intended to provide for infill development of single-and two-family residences in moderate density neighborhoods and to preserve the present physical character of such neighborhoods.” Coupled with a minimum lot size requirement of 5,000 square feet that makes the townhomes on either side of the current proposed development site nonconforming uses. So it would require a zoning change to build townhomes on these two lots.

            These proposed tiny homes are something new for Evanston, and it’s fair to look for some evidence that there’s been market demand for similar projects elsewhere. But to reject them just because they’ve never been built here before, or because — without data to prove it — we think they’re not priced realistically — seems like a mistake to me.

            — Bill

  12. Hi Bill, You have to be kidding. You believe that people who oppose this project somehow are opposed to affordable housing ? Looking at that mark up any family with children would be on top of each other! Actually any couple would be on top of each other! This is NOT affordable housing. I live in a VERY modest house and those whole micro houses are smaller than my living room Don’t question people’s motives for thinking negatively about this project

    1. Hi “Another,”
      You shouldn’t make assumptions about the choices other people may be willing to make about how much space they need to occupy.
      And why do you necessarily assume that these tiny homes would be occupied by a couple or a family?
      Aren’t single people allowed to live in Evanston?
      — Bill

  13. The bottom line is we need more housing supply in this town, and we don’t have a ton of space. Therefore, density is key. This sounds like a very promising project that would make efficient density driven use of existing space.

    To the affordability question — it’s relative. That’s too much for 80-100% AMI households, I agree, but affordability is relative. There is a crisis in town for low-mid households, but there is also a crisis regarding the 100-120% AMI families who can afford about $300k home but can’t find a good one here in town, so they move to law where.

    We need affordability for middle to lower middle class households as well as the low income households in town, so let’s not let the perfect be the enemy of the good. If this is built it will be better for Evanston, period. I sincerely hope it happens!

  14. I don’t get this. There are larger condos for sale for a lot less. $300K for this shoe box is not affordable housing.

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 *