Plans for an extended stay hotel in downtown Evanston are drawing fears from some that it will attract the wrong kind of academics as guests.

The Southeast Evanston Association, in an email message to its members, says neighbors need to assure that the establishment will carry “a hotel brand that will maintain a high quality of business, and not devolve into cheap housing for transient academics.”

The hotel project is proposed for a vacant lot at 1515 Chicago Ave. that formerly housed a 1950s vintage one-story colonial-revival-style building that was the home of Heil & Heil insurance until that company moved to Skokie.

The site in 2006, the year Preservation Commission members concluded it had little architectural merit.

The project will be the subject of a public meeting sponsored by the city’s Community Development Department at 7 p.m. Wedneday, Feb. 5, in the community meeting room at the Evanston Public Library downtown.

The developer is proposing an eight-story building with 116 rooms and 35 open parking spaces. The property is part of the city’s D4 or “downtown transition” zoning district, which permits a building height of 85 feet, or up to 145 feet under certain conditions.

Neighbors in mid-rise buildings on the block, who have long had clear views out their windows over the site, have worked for years to block development plans for the property.

In 2006 the site was proposed as part of an 18-story mixed-use retail, office and condominium project on the southeast corner of Chicago Avenue and Davis Street called Optima Promenade, which city officials ultimately rejected amid strong opposition from neighbors.

The following year a smaller condo project was proposed for just the 1515 Chicago Ave. site, but that plan never got off the ground.

More recently a representative of the trust that owns the property complained that city officials were pressuring him to propose what he considered a financially-unfeasible office development for the site.

That was at a time when the city thought it could also spark development of a multi-story office building at the Chicago Avenue and Main Street intersection, a project that has since been scaled back to contain just one floor of offices.

In its email, the Southeast Evanston Association also voices concern about possible heavy use of the alley adjacent to the building and increased traffic around the site.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Wrong kind of academics!

    The NIMBY said "it will attract the wrong kind of academics as guests…"


    This is probably the most ridiculous thing I've heard the NIMBY in Evanston say.  Are they afraid of visiting faculty making noise until all hours of the night ? holding an orgy on their balcony ?  Are these academics more undesirable than the football fans who leave their trash all over the streets or tie up traffic—maybe prohibit all sports fans from staying in Evanston.  Or is this another slam at NU and a way to stick it to the university ?  Maybe they need to examiine why they moved to Evanston.  Without NU, Evanston would be Skokie or Wilmette or more likely a continuaton of Chicago [specifically Juneway Terrace].

    They always seem to find reasons to keep anything from being built.  Maybe we need to go back in history and view the objections to their building being too high or causing parking problems and tear their building down.


    1. Better watch out for those academics
      For the sake of innocent children we had better keep out the wrong kind of academics. They are too politically correct to be explicit, but I am sure they are referring to statisticians who are frequentists. Northwestern has had a strong tradition of Bayesians. The harmony in the community would be horribly disrupted if it became easy for a bunch of frequentists to crash downtown. They would probably write graffiti of confidence intervals around known facts! next thing you know there will be enough of them that they will lobby to get a tilted kilt franchise openned!

      Say NO! to frequentists.

      1. Bayesians – bah humbug!

        You Bayesian rabble are just bigots whose prior probability distributions discriminate against Law of Large Numbers-abiding statisticians.

        1. Frankly, you all sound like

          Frankly, you all sound like mathematicians to me, with your weird half-language that nobody else can understand. Down with hard science! Up with humanities!

          1. Humanities?

            HUMANITIES!!!??? That's just the kind of riff-raff we're trying to avoid, with their interpretations of Faust and their ruminations on the meaning of life. And don't get me started on the existentialists. HARUMPH!

          2. Existentialists?

            It's hardly the existentialists we need to worry about! It's those Derridean deconstructionists! What a mess. 

          3. Deconstructionists?

            For the time being setting aside — for the sake of my readers' patience and with a certain respect for the limits imposed on my discourse by the conventions of the "internet comment thread" — the crucially important problematic of transience which threatens to undermine, even as it makes possible, the very discussion on which we have embarked, as well as the dificulty that besets any attempt to delimit a "right sort" of academics, that is, that the category's own purity can only be established by certain exclusion that inscribes it necessarily and from the very beginning with its other, the group which provokes such anxiety within a certain discourse that claims the authority of the Southeast Evanston Association, even as said Association attempts to disown that discourse, is almost certainly (within the horizons of the present discussion, respecting the form in which it was initially proposed, with all the presuppositions and limitations it entailed) those philosphers (still so numerous, alas, and who enjoy an especial prominence in this country) who are still attempting to shore up various forms of positivism and logocentrism.

          4. Its the ontologists

            forget the deconstructionists & the lacanians.  Its the ontologists that bring down property values.

      2. Confidence Levels are OK

        I'm fine with the frequentists using confidence levels.  I just have an issue with how they interpret them!

      3. Bayesians go home!

        Where'd your likelihood function come from, smart guy?

        Hah! I knew that would stump you.

  2. Hotel Needed

    WOW is all I can say. 

    Fromt the article: The Southeast Evanston Association, in an email message to its members, says neighbors need to assure that the establishment will carry "a hotel brand that will maintain a high quality of business, and not devolve into cheap housing for transient academics." 

    What the heck is "cheap housing for transient academics"? And since when are "transient academics" (assuming that means visiting professors at NU?) assumed to be bad?

    What am I missing here?  Someone please clarify for me – THANKS! Sara

  3. Northeast Evanston

    Southeast Evanston Association is poking their unwelcome nose in Northeast Evanston's improvements.

    1. Boundaries

      Actually, the SEA claims on its website, to speak for residents "in the area bordered by South Blvd. (on the south), Clark Street (north), Chicago Avenue (west), and Lake Michigan (east), encompassing parts of the First and Third Wards."

      That would include 1515 Chicago Ave.

      — Bill

  4. Nimbyism at its very worst

    What on earth is a transient academic? Is that another name for a Northwestern student or professor? What really are these people fearfull of? They have been on a roll for several years now using underhanded tactics against this developer to prevent this property from getting off the ground.

    Our toothless city council has dutifully gone along every time this comes up for a vote. Maybe the developer is going about it the wrong way. They may need to ask for some city money, this way all the obstacles would be quickly removed.

    These obstructionists have dug in, and are prepared to preserve their myopic views of the city at all costs to the regular taxpayer.

    God knows the city could use another affordable hotel. last year friends of my mine visited from out of town to tour Northwestern with their child. They ended up staying in Northbrook because the few hotel rooms in the city were all gone.

    It is time the city council grow a backbone and allow this property to be developed and enhance the amenities that we as a city have to offer.

  5. Never laughed so hard


    I've never laughed so hard about anything posted on Evanston Now.  It's about time someone stood up to all the "transient academics" we have in this town.  Smoking their cigars and drinking scotch while reading Aristotle on their Kindles!  Then packing up and moving on to the next town of transient academics.  We just can't keep subsidizing this transient academia trend.

    I suspect "transient academics" means students.  But why not just say that?!?  And some of the other comments here are priceless.

    1. Too funny

      This story reminds me of a famous Dear Abby column from many years ago:


      Dear Abby: Two men who claim to be father and adopted son just bought an old mansion across the street and fixed it up. We notice a very suspicious mixture of company coming and going at all hours — blacks, whites, Orientals, women who look like men and men who look like women. … This has always been considered one of the finest sections of San Francisco, and these weirdos are giving it a bad name. How can we improve the neighborhood? — Nob Hill Residents

      Dear Residents: You could move.

        1. Halfway House 4 Sale

          The wise people of the city council destroyed Pritzkers planned massive investment into the Evanston Art's Center and now the wise people are negotiating with some third-tier state agency instead.


          Maybe the wise people representing our fair city should force another halfway house onto Chicago Ave.


          Wouldn't that be ironic.  Be careful what you wish for dear nieghbors.

  6. Stop the tower of transients!

    What's going to be the rallying cry this time? Don't build the tower of transients!!!!

    The city is just as much to blame for wanting an office building there. The downtown office vacancy rate is high. The city wanted an office building at the vacant lot at the corner of Main and Chicago and deemed that corner a TIF to try and ram it through. The developers even turned down a grant offered by aldermen to build an office building there. They did so because they could not get enough interest to build an office building.

    There are too many micromanagers in city government that are impeding downtown development.

  7. rowdy transient academics

    well, i guess in my 79 years i have now heard everything.  i hadn't realized (and sarcasm is the ONLY way to deal with such an absurd extension of nimbyism) that the visiting professors who stay at the homestead were causing such a ruckus.  maybe david and holly reynolds can weigh in on how often they have to call the police to subdue their guests.  i've known several who have spent a few months there, and they seemed quite well-behaved.  

    i would really like to know who the author of that email to SEA members was, but if they're smart, they'll leave town until we forget about it……


    mary brugliera

  8. So, the residents of a block

    So, the residents of a block that is mostly mid-rise are complaining because somone else wants to build a mid-rise structure on their block? If they want to control what's built on the empty parcel, why don't they club together and buy it?

    1. Do you really have to ask?

      Because it's always easier and cheaper to get the authority to block a project. Whining costs nothing. Buying the land… well, that takes time and investment.

  9. More transient histrionics

    Historical district?  The SEA wants the building to blend in with the surrounding neighborhood?

    I suppose that means the tall modern office building very visible in the photos.  Maybe blend with the multiple, basically same height, 1958 era plain box, but very historically important buildings, viewed directly behind the proposed site.

    And landscaping, must make sure that blends in also.  That must mean blending with the existing few trees currently plopped into the sidewalk along the Chicago ave. commercial street.

    And dear me, traffic in an alley that services a whole block of commercial buildings?  Such unreasonable thinking, that can't be allowed.

    All in all, I think the "transient academics"  line succintly puts the thinking and agenda of the Southeast Evanston Association in proper perspective.  Seriously?  They really should rename themselves into the Southeast Evanston Association of Histrionic Hysteria. 

    1. WWJD?

      Speaking of NIMBYs , histrionics, and irrational behavior…..

          I believe that this property is in the First Ward.   What does the alderman, Judy Fiske, have to say about this?

      1. Do you really need to enquire?

        Do you really need to enquire?  I can virtually dictate to you now all the great "concerns" the Nimby's are going to have for their "fragile" neighborhood.  Same as it ever was, and never once correct.

        Anytime you hear a SEA member or Judy Fiske speak, keep that transient nonsense in your head, it basically exposes what they represent and the low levels they will stoop to.  

        Didn't SEA also recently release a postcard with an jetliner landing on an Evanston street for some ridiculous reason or other. Or did someone photo shop that as an Onion style mocking?  With SEA, the seperation between their reality and an Onion joke is, sadly, very close.    

  10. Wha?

    I didn't realize our world class institution and surrounding community was so in danger.  We must be vigilant.  Well done.

  11. Keep out the smart people!

    Just say no to transient academics!  THey might upend the intelligence bell curve in this town and that would not be fair.


  12. Ludicrous and offensive

    As a former visiting professor at NU, and now a permanent resident of South East Evanston, I find the protestations of the self-proclaimed "Southeast Evanston Association" both ludicrous and offensive. They certainly don't speak for me, and I hope the Evanston City Council does not mistake their voice for the popular opinion.

    The proposed project would be a great addition to existing accomodation options, providing a much-needed extended stay complement to existing shorter-term options.

    1. Rational for a “Dry Evanston””

      After reading the protest comments, I think I now understand why Evanston use to be "Dry"…if you let these folks drink, who knows what will happen? The proposed project is at least as good an idea as a "Wet" Evanston.

  13. Transient academics = the migrant workers of academe

    Transient academics sounds like code for "contingent faculty": the perma-temps of academe. Call them adjuncts, non-tenure-track, what you will, they are the dirty little open secret of our colleges (including NU), doing the work that the schools are not willing to pay a decent wage for, like teaching the underclassmen and the big classes. They have no chance at tenure, they operate on a semester-by-semester threadbare "contract", and they may be gone without recourse at any time: kinda like migrant workers, but with a Ph.D. and tens of thousands of dollars in student loans they are desperate to pay off.


    1. Response from a Transient Academic

      I am sure the adjuncts can't afford to stay in Evanston for even a day, let alone a week or two.  No, we are talking about the underfunded, pressured tenure track junior faculty, mortgaging their future to meet that critical "publish or perish" standard.  Desparately seeking access to journals and databases that are increasingly closed to normal human beings and lesser institutions, as well as to the archives.  As I was.  But don't worry Evanston, UIC has much better, cheaper housing for transient academics. We'll spend our coffee shop money and deli budget there.  There's always the purple line.

  14. This was an unfortunate turn

    This was an unfortunate turn of phrase in what was to be a simple announcement of an upcoming meeting.  The announcement was sent on short notice and was not given board review as it should have been.  This does not represent SEA’s view and we much regret it was included.  We have high regard for Northwestern and all faculty and students.

    We urge everyone in the community to attend the meeting about 1515 Chicago Avenue on 5 February 2014 at 7 pm, Evanston Public Library (main location).  This will be an important discussion about a coming development for Evanston.  Come share your views about this property.

    For over 50 years the Southeast Evanston Association has worked to inform people about important community issues, to keep Evanston a thriving and vibrant community and to improve its quality of life.


    Board of Directors
    Southeast Evanston Association

    1. Revenge of the Nerds comes to Evanston

      An "unfortunate turn of phrase?"  Well, it clearly represented the views of at least one person in your organization — and it is pathetic.  I would wager that the visiting academics are likely better citizens than the average SEA board member and are almost surely more thoughtful.  You may indeed want to espouse "high regard for Northwestern and all faculty and students," but the fact that one of you thought that using them as the bogeyman was the way to scare people is telling.  Pray tell what other anti-intellectual tricks do you have up your sleeves?  Can I expect you to give Fox and the Tea Party a run for their money in terms of inane comments?


      For over 50 minutes the Southeast Evanston Association has worked to slander people about important community issues, to keep the internet laughing, and to ignore what makes Evanston a thriving and vibrant community.  Your foolishness has improved my quality of life and I thank you for that.

    2. Unfortunate turn?

      Unfortunate turn? Please, SEA behavior has been consistently predictable for about as long as I can remember.  Nothing surprising about what you now want to backtrack from and call an  "unfortunate turn of phrase". The statement falls completely in line with past SEA positions. 

      SEA mailing out anymore postcards with jetliners landing on an Evanston street, protecting us from the Evanston International Airport?  Nothing extreme about that type of hyteria?  Oh, just kidding,or are we?  

      It wasn't an "unfortunate turn of phrase," it pretty much sums up SEA thinking and tactics.

      SEA is now dismissed, as well it should be.  

  15. The real threat…

    …is transient theologians coming to Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary and Seabury-Western Theological Seminary.

    Who knows what heresies they will bring, and what plagues the almighty may mete out in divine retribution? Floods, heat waves, sub-zero temperatures, blizzards… how would we survive?

    1. Disaster of Biblical Proportions

       This city is headed for a disaster of biblical proportions, real wrath of God type stuff. Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies! Rivers and seas boiling!  Forty years of darkness! Earthquakes, volcanoes…  The dead rising from the grave!  Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together… mass hysteria!

  16. transients

    Academic transients are best treated as were the Duke and Dauphin in "Huckleberry Finn"; tarred and feathered and run out of town on a rail.


    1. Hhrmph!

      This is why I don't cotton to no book learning.  All these here transients should learn a trade and get themselve a real job.  Elsewise they'll be sittin' on a corner, drinking Thunderbird, and holdin' cardboard signs saying "Will Profess 4 Food".  Country's goin' to Hell I tells ya.

  17. Curious

    If the neighbors care about their view so much why don't they just buy the property themselves.  Otherwise they should go pound sand.

  18. Focus on real issue of the project
    The focus should be on real issues, of the project. The building will be in the downtown – so it impact is quite small on residenial areas, The occupancy is like a hotel. My only question is the parking really adequate for the proposed hotel use 116, at 35 spaces? Also given that if these rental are for several months, most people would likely want a car.
    If parking is not enough we taxpayers will pay, Wally gave Trader Joes $2million for parking, these people in the Hotel will have to use city garages or lots. One thing to ask what capacity do we have in these lots and how many other projects have been done counting on these facilities?

    I do not suspect this will be use by students or faculty as much as vistors, former residents visting children or family or corporate travelers, given the rents proposed are more like a Hotel.

    1. 35 spaces is probably too much

      35 spaces will be way more than adequate.  Parking minimums, in general, are ridiculous.  The Palmer House has 1600 rooms and no parking on site.

      To answer your question about capacity of city lots: they are nowhere near capacity.  The City did a transportation plan  a couple of years ago and found that the average capacity was around 60%.  All of the parking garages operate in the red.  We've spent millions of dollars dealing with maintenance on those white elephants so it would seem quite stupid to require more parking at a site that is a block and a half away from two city garages.

    2. Cost the taxpayer?

      Taxpayers will pay for guest parking?  Even though they call it a short term hotel, maybe 2 or 3 percent will really use it for extended periods of time.  You seem to understand that in your last paragraph, therefore 35 parking spaces are probably way more than what is needed for this project.  

      And even if parking were occasionally short, how do you come to the conclusion the taxpayer will now have to pay?  What it means is that the guest will be parking in a city garage, probably with a ticket provided and paid for by the hotel, thereby creating revenue for one of our underutilized taxpayer supported parking decks.

      Seems to me that the taxpayer actually gets paid by the out of town visitor in that scenario. We collect parking garage revenue, hotel tax revenue, eating and drinking tax revenues, plus a variety of other nickle and dime charges and fees they will probably incur while visiting here.  Not to mention the millions upon millions the hotel will be paying in r.e. taxes over the next few years.  

      Looks like a great deal for the taxpayers, millions in revenue paid by nice out of towners directly into Evanston coffers.  Now that's a real issue I can get behind of, lets get it done.  

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