City staff will argue for doubling the developer’s proposed contribution to Evanston’s affordable housing fund when plans for the 831 Emerson project are introduced at a City Council meeting tonight.

The developer has proposed a $500,000 contribution. The city staff is asking for $1 million.

The higher amount is 38 percent of what would be required for a project of this size had it been proposed after the effective date of recent amendments to the so-called inclusionary housing ordinance.

Staff also wants to extract an additional $250,000 from the developer for modernization of traffic signals along Emerson plus unspecified amounts for streetscape and CTA underpass improvements as well as public art.

The developers — Focus Development and CA Ventures — claim that public benefits they’ve already agreed to add up to more than $2 million — not including the added $1 million in annual property tax revenue the 12-story, 260-unit project is expected to generate.

City staff says foes of the project failed to gather enough petition signatures to require the project to gain support from seven aldermen to win approval. So it will require backing from at least six aldermen. The petitioners would have needed signatures from 30 percent of the property owners within 500 feet of the site, and got only 18 percent of those owners to sign.

Only eight aldermen will be seated when the project is introduced tonight, but Eleanor Revelle, the new 7th Ward alderman, is scheduled to be seated at the next City Council meeting on Feb. 22, the earliest date at which a final vote on the project is likely.

The project is designed to attract college students as tenants, and the developers argue that their design, which calls for about half the parking spaces normally required by the city code, will work because its location close to the Northwestern University campus and two rail lines will generate far less than the typical demand for parking, in part because students who live close to campus aren’t allowed by the university to park on campus.

The developers reduced the proposed height of the project from 14 to 12 stories and cut the unit count from 267 to 260, after the Plan Commission unanimously recommended approval of the development, conditioned on some reduction in its height.

More coverage of the 831 Emerson project

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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