Community activists who turned out for a roundtable planning session about Evanston’s north downtown neighborhood Wednesday night failed to agree on a vision for the area’s future.

In summaries gathered by city staff of discussions at the different tables, the goals ranged from:

  • Encouraging construction of new single family housing in an area that has mostly multi-family housing now, to
  • Maintaining existing zoning which generally permits low- to mid-rise residential and commercial development, to
  • Building new multi-family housing as much as 10 stories tall near the the intersection of Foster Street and Maple Avenue.

The north downtown study area proposed by city staff, highlighted in orange.

The push for single family housing also appeared to conflict with calls at other tables for creating more affordable housing — which Evanston has typically attempted to fund by imposing fees on new multi-family developments.

While city planners have promoted the idea of reducing parking requirements for new housing built near transit stops, like the Purple Line stop at Foster, as a way of making the new units more affordable, some of the residents insisted instead that more parking should be required.

Some people pushed for more neighborhood commercial shops and services in the neighborhood, while opposing increasing residential density that might provide customers for the vacant and underutilized storefronts that already exist. 

Mark Muenzer, standing in front of a slide summarizing the feedback from residents.

About 70 people turned out for Wednesday night’s session in the Parasol Room at the Civic Center, and Community Development Director Mark Muenzer invited them to the next north downtown planning meeting, scheduled for the same location at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, June 15.

The neighborhood planning process was launched in the wake of the City Council’s rejection in February of plans for a 12-story rental development at 831 Emerson St. that planned to target students as tenants.

A collection of documents from the city about the north downtown planning process can be found online.

Related stories

Downtown north planning OK’d (4/19/16)

Plan would expand downtown by 15 percent (4/17/16)

Manager: New plan coming for north end of downtown (3/2/16)

Aldermen reject student housing development (2/23/16)

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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