Faced with slumping retail sales and high post-pandemic office vacancies, Evanston’s City Council will vote Monday night on whether to add more than 200 new residents downtown.

They’re scheduled to vote on plans for The Legacy Evanston, a 15-story, luxury rental development from Horizon Realty Group, planned to replace a largely vacant row of one-story storefronts at 1621-1631 Chicago Ave.

Most of this row of storefronts would be demolished to construct the new apartment building. Credit: Google

With inflation-fighting high interest rates crimping the prospects for funding new projects, it’s the only sizable residential development currently seeking city approval.

And with little sign that more employees who can work remotely are going to return to the office full-time any time soon, having more people live downtown is one of the few ready options to create more customers for downtown businesses.

But the plans for the 140-unit building have drawn fierce opposition from a tax-exempt church across the alley from the site and from owners of units in downtown condos whose skyline views may be impaired by the new building.

Opponents argue that the proposed building exceeds the base zoning for the site.

Proponents counter that the project size is within the range of development allowances the zoning ordinance authorizes the Council to approve.

The Council has effectively punted any overall reconsideration of what downtown Evanston should look like until after the April 2025 election by setting in motion a process to develop a new comprehensive plan and zoning code that’s unlikely to come up for a vote until after the current Council’s term has ended.

Horizon has proposed several different designs for the building over the past six years — with heights of 25, 13, 19, 17, 13, 18, and now 15 stories.

The only previous proposal that reached the Planning and Development Committee, a 17-story version, died in the committee in October 2020.

The Land Use Commission voted 4-5 against the latest version of the building at a meeting in March.

Monday’s Planning and Development Committee meeting is scheduled to start at 5:45 p.m.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. If there is a shortage of residential space and several empty spaces in commercial properties, why not convert the empty offices to residential?
    Several previously commercial properties in Chicago are now residential.

    1. It has been done in Evanston in the past. For example, a portion of the Carlson Building downtown that used to be doctor’s offices is now apartments. But there are a variety of challenges to making the change — which were explored in a visually interesting story in the New York Times back in March.
      — Bill

  2. Downtown Evanston desperately needs more residents: more patrons for our local businesses means a more-vibrant city center and an expanded tax base. The developer can build ten stories on the site without asking for a variance—but it would be short-sighted to deny our economy the additional boost of the extra floors. The Council should welcome growth of this sort.

  3. Look at your neighbors, Evanston. None of them have parking meters! They are Evanston retailers and restaurant competition. Patronizing Evanston retail shops, salons, restaurants, health clubs, shoe maker, dry cleaners, hardware stores is an inconvenient hassle because of the meters. We are surrounded by a dozen suburbs that do not have meters, so like me, most people go elsewhere for everything. It is a hassle, time killer, unnecessary expense, and stres-inducing inconvenience. Get rid of the meters and retail revenue will increase tremendously.

  4. I find the oft-repeated “Evanston should not have parking meters downtown, because our neighboring suburbs don’t” argument quite frustrating. I don’t pretend to be a city planner. But it seems to me that Evanston’s downtown is different from other towns, in that we have a greater downtown corporate presence than other towns do. What’s to stop all those otherwise very welcome employees from parking all day on our downtown streets? Also, what about all the weekday Davis Street L and Metra commuters who drive to the train station? Why would they continue to pay to leave their cars all day in our public lots, when they too could snatch up street parking in what could conceivably turn out to be an early morning free-for-all? I for one am happy to pay for a metered parking space for convenient access to a downtown professional service or favorite lunch spot.

    1. You’re absolutely correct. “Free parking” shifts the cost from the person storing their vehicle and foists it onto taxpayers, whose pockets are picked to subsidize this regressive handout . “Free parking” is a massive giveaway primarily benefitting auto manufacturers and petroleum companies.

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