Plans to redevelop a city-owned parking lot on South Boulevard with mixed-income housing edged forward at a City Council meeting Tuesday night, despite opposition from several neighbors.

The neighbors, speaking during public comment, suggested the new construction should be limited to townhouse-style units similar in scale to the four townhomes owned by the Housing Authority of Cook County just west of the parking lot.

Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, said she is unequivocally opposed to rezoning the site from its current R4 designation to R6, as proposed in a city staff memo that also suggested R5 as a rezoning option.

Paul Zalmezak, the city’s economic development manager, said that with the existing R4 zoning the lot could probably only hold eight townhome units. In a mixed-income development that might mean only a couple of affordable units could be included. “I wouldn’t recommend development at that level,” Zalmezak said.

Rezoned to R5, Zalmezak said, the site could include as many as 48 units in a four-story building. “If we’re going to achieve our affordable housing goals,” he added, “we should build more than what’s allowed under existing zoning.”

Alderman Tom Suffredin, 6th Ward, suggested not eliminating R6 as a rezoning option. “This is a city asset, not a ward asset,” Suffredin said, referring to the parking lot and the city’s goal of increasing affordable housing.

But Wynne responded that R6 has a base height limit of 85 feet and development allowances could increase that to 125 feet.

“Lets put out an RFP that’s acceptable to the community and will achieve community goals,” Wynne said. “I want the project to fit into the context of the community.”

A city zoning map showing R5 zoning across South Boulevard from the site.

While the parking lot parcel is zoned R4, land just across South Boulevard to the north is zoned R5, and Hinman Avenue, in the block north of South Boulevard, includes buildings ranging from two to five stories in height.

Aldermen voted to authorize staff to move forward with preparing a request for proposals for development of the site. City Manager Erika Storlie said the RFP will be presented to the City Council for approval next month.

Staff is working with the Housing Authority of Cook County to include its adjoining townhomes in the redevelopment proposal, and the expectation is that the project will be financed using state low income housing tax credits.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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.