Evanston’s Preservation Commission will be asked Tuesday to issue a certificate of appropriateness for construction of a planned contemporary-style home at 1210 Maple Ave. in the Ridge Historic District.

The new home, designed by Evanston architect Nathan Kipnis, would have a passive home certification. City staff says the plans are zoning compliant.

A view of the 1200 block of Maple Avenue, which includes mostly single-family homes but also a row of five townhouses. (2018 Google Maps image).

The site is on part of an oversize lot that also holds the existing home at 1214 Maple Ave. whose owners are seeking to subdivide their property.

The now vacant land at 1210 Maple. The house at 1214 Maple is on the right in this image.

Three neighbors on the block have already filed email messages with the commission opposing the plans — arguing that the new home’s design is not compatible with the existing, mostly Victorian, structures on the block.

“How could modern construction such as the intended design possibly be viewed by the Commission to be in keeping with the existing architecture within the District,” wrote Stephanie Fine of 1242 Maple Ave.

Martha Stockton of 1220 Maple Ave., an architect, compared the new design unfavorably to an infill home on the block at 1241 Maple Ave. constructed about 15 years ago that she said “blends into the block beautifully.”

The home at 1241 Maple Ave., constructed on an infill lot around 2006.

Stockton says questions why the planned owner of the new house, Margaret Stender, “likes the block she is moving onto,” and suggest she consider “whether her new home will contribute to or detract from the strong historic aesthetic of the street.”

Jeffrey Hickey of 1227 Maple Ave., and the other neighbors also complained that they “are not allowed significant changes to the exterior of our homes.”

As outlined in a memo by City Planner Cade Sterling, the commission has a 16-point list for judging whether new construction is appropriate.

Those standards demand “visual compatibility” in a variety of structural elements.

But at the same time they say that “innovative design for new construction … shall not be discouraged” and that for new construction “the Commission shall not impose a requirement for the use of a single architectural style or period.”

An illustration indicating similarities in proportions of the new home’s design elements to ones used on Victorian-era townhomes directly across the street.

In an exhibit submitted to the commission, Kipnis, the new home’s architect, argues that there are many similarities in the proportion of design elements between the proposed house and the Victorian-era townhomes directly across the street.

The commission meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday in the City Council Chambers at the Civic Center.

Under the city code, a decision by the commission to deny the certificate of appropriateness can be appealed to the City Council’s Planning and Development Committee.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation

7 Comments

  1. For Pete’s sake, it’s a lovely new design that will increase the tax base in this town where far too much property cannot be taxed. Can’t we put aside the pettiness and not seek to block this?

  2. It seems the design could pay more attention to the scale and materials of the neighborhood. Raising the first floor so it has 3-4 stairs to the first level would raise the building so it would be closer in height to its neighbors. Some other things could be done to respect the historic district.

  3. I agree with Matt. There are many design elements that repeat from the neighborhood homes. Perhaps some neighbors are looking for a McMansion on this small lot? Please let’s be more civil and accepting of other people’s wishes. Is there anything in this usually friendly community that doesn’t bring some dissent now, requiring extra time and money from both our tax payer provided city staff and the victim.

  4. David Rosen, you are correct, but even if this not “appropriate for a historic district”, which i would dispute, we don’t have a buyer that wants to build that. We have a buyer that wants to build the home depicted, so if we value increasing the tax base, our choice is that home or nothing.

  5. Everyone is in the wrong here. Modern farmhouses are indeed tacky and already look like they’re out of style. On the other hand, the owners should be able to do what they wish with their own property. While I appreciate preserving the existing historic homes, time moves forward and we can’t forever be beholden to the delicate aesthetic sensitivities of the well-heeled. It’s not as if they are planning to construct a hideous, Andy Spatz-designed metal house.

  6. The article lacks crucial information about the new design that is compelling. I’ve seen the plans and know the house is going to be an incredibly green, environmentally friendly, net zero house. They should be applauded for adding another home to our tax base and doing it in an environmentally friendly way. I see this as great progress and helpful to our community.

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