Evanston aldermen granted final approval on a split vote Monday to a planned development that will renovate and expand the former North Shore Retirement Hotel.

Aldermen voted 5-3 for the project after owner Jeff Michael said demands by some aldermen to add an affordable housing component to the North Shore Residence project would kill the deal.

“The bank won’t approve financing for the project if there’s an affordable housing set-aside,” Michael told the City Council.

He said renovations are already underway to the existing building and those will have to be paid for which means rents there will have to increase.

But he said the new construction component of the project — adding 80 new apartments just north of the existing building — could not go forward if a low-income set-aside was required.

Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl said she’s heard from residents that they’re being forced to move out because of rent increases.

But Michael said he hasn’t raised rents for any existing residents yet.

Alderman Mark Tendam, 6th Ward, said he’d switched his view and joined Aldermen Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, and Jane Grover, 7th Ward, in supporting the call for a 10-percent low income housing component to the project because of the “steep rental increases proposed.”

But Alderman Judy Fiske, whose 1st Ward includes the 1611 Chicago Ave. property, said the building has severe problems and keeping it the way it is “isn’t going to work over time.”

She said she’d heard other proposals for the building in recent years that called for turning it into student housing or other alternatives that would have forced all of the current residents to leave.

“If we’re going to have an affordable set-aside,” Fiske said, “We should tell you that before you buy the property. To spring that on you late in the day is not fair.”

And Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, said the project would be affordable, though it’s not low-income housing.

“A lot of people are in the middle, Rainey said, they can’t afford the Mather and wouldn’t qualify for low-income housing,” suggesting the new project would work for them.

Rainey observed that the city has not made affordability demands of other types of construction projects.

“Why don’t we ask Trader Joe’s to reduce the cost of food by 10 percent for anybody who’s a senior? Why don’t we say to Walgreens that before you build the fancy building on Chicago Avenue that you have to give people a price break?”

Only eight aldermen cast votes on the project because Aldermen Don Wilson, 4th Ward, had been called away from the meeting before the vote took place.

Top: A rendering showing the proposed addition on the left, next to the north wing of the existing building.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Evanston has more than enough affordable housing

    Didn't the city manager last year say affordable housing is no longer a top priority in Evanston? Didn't Tendam, Grover and Holmes get that memo?

    Afterall, how much equity did Evanstonian property owners lose in the Great Recession? Evanston was awarded an $18 million federal grant to renovate properties in low income areas and sell and rent those properties as affordable housing. The state and city kicked in more money to build Emerson Square that will add more affordable housing units in the Fifth Ward. 

    Anytime someone wants to demolish a property and build a new one they have to pay $10,000 to the city and that money goes straight into the city's affordable housing fund. Evanston in the past several years has been involved in several affordable housing projects, most of which failed.

    Evanston has several community land trust homes where non-profits preserve and maintain single family homes as affordable housing. Say, if  Grover and Tendam want more affordable housing so badly why don't they lobby to get more community land trusts and affordable housing projects in their wards?  

    Here is a list of the many affordable housing organizations in Evanston.

    Honestly, after what the Evanston real estate market has been thru does the Council have to add more stress to the market by making it difficult for private developers? I believe that in part affordable housing programs are a way for local politicians to get elected.

    The funny thing is Tendam and Grover are in areas that do not have much if any affordable housing. I wonder what their voters would say if they push for more affordable housing in their wards.

    You get what you vote for.

    1. Did Al get the memo?

      "The funny thing is Tendam and Grover are in areas that do not have much if any affordable housing. I wonder what their voters would say if they push for more affordable housing in their wards."

      Al, the type of people who would live in the North Shore, Mather, or Primm Towers or Presbyterian Homes  have different needs than the kind of people who would live wards 6 or 7.

      The NIMBYs in Wards 6 or 7 would certainly object to affordable housing in their neighborhoods…but that doesn't mean that the elderly should be excluded from downtown.  The Mather – which is quite expensive – is a beautiful building, and I am sure that the NIMBYs would have a fit if someone tried to build an exact copy of it on Central Street.

    2. Is home ownership a human right?

      THe northern wards do have "affordable" homes. They are called apartments, and they line Central street.   I'd love if the mansions on the lake could be more "affordable" too.      Having someplace to rest your head is a human right. Owning large square footage and a yard is not.

      1. More apartments, please!

        I agree with you, Jen…not everyone needs to own a home, and apartments are a good option.

        Is it fair to assume that you, being a libertarian and all, are opposed to oppressive zoning laws that limit the height , number, and location of apartments?

        For example, the NIMBYs had the former Kendall lot rezoned to R1 – meaning only single family homes can go there.  This is clearly an affront to the property owner's right to build an apartment on that property.

        I object to NIMBYs who place artificial restrictions on the supply of housing….and then preach 'free markets' when it comes to affordable housing.


        1. yes

          I have never once on this forum stated that there is no role at all for government.  Libertarian should not be confused with anarchy.     When you buy a home, the location and proximity of things near matters.  To some extent, your property value is affected by the zoning of the neighborhood and the purchase price reflects this.    So I would not support outlandish changing of zoning from single family homes to unlimited apartments of all heights and sizes nor changing of R1 zoning to business without neighbor input, as this would affect the rights of the current owners.    However, the people who purchased near Kendall bought into a neighborhood that was not all zoned R1.  As far as I know, the proposed development was going to be nice townhomes.   I don't understand why that was a problem.   Just to be clear though, if you buy a home that abuts a business zoned district, I think your rights to protest/prevent a new law abiding business that follows all current ordinances should be considerably limited.   I, for one, would have loved to have had a beer at the Tilted Kilt.     

  2. North Shore residence

    Our Mayor seems to have a better grasp of the facts re increases,move outs and availability of appropriate housing than Mr Michael.

    Wonder why others were approved based on assistance and to what extent it's enforced.

  3. What is ‘affordable’ ?

    Cities toss around the term 'affordable' but don't/won't say what it really means.

    Should  Kenilworth * have 'affordable' housing so that Chicago or Evanston residents at the poverty leavel even middle class Evanstonians can live there ?   Many Evanstonians might 'like' to live in Kenilworth and some/many may make even enough money to purchase in Kenilworth but don't want to sink that much money into one investment.

    Certain areas became defined by the people that live [and have lived there for generations] there such as an economic level that allows for property of some what similar size and appearance, incomes that allow property to be maintained, a civic pride that causes the people to participate in the community/government, festivals and such, take efforts to keep crime down, form watch groups to make sure crime is kept down, support merchants of goods esp. when the costs of those goods [e.g. mink coats, Lamborghinis] require the people to have $$$ to purchase them and keep the merchant in business.

    Other people, say some Evanstonians, may not like the life style/culture of a Keinlworth and choose to live in Evanston.  However as those communities form around a life style/culture/wealth, if that is changed by people [whatever race or nationality] moving in who do not share those values will move out.   Even a Kenilworth has different races and people of national origin but if they have the money to move there, they also have decided that the 'culture' of the city meets their interest.  They may want to and people in Kenilworth would value elements of their culture that they bring with them but in a generatiion or two it is not expected by either side that the 'culture' will dramatically shift nor the value of their property [except up].

    And no this is not an argument for '…they will be more comfortable with their 'own' people…'  it is just that some areas cost more than others and we have to get use to the idea.

    I don't know if this is true, but in the early 70s an Evanston man who himself would have been in his mid to late 60s said that once Evanston was the Winettka of today but that over time 'that Evanston' kept moving further and further north.

    * I know that given the ideas of the founder that this selection brings up a 'can of worms' but that has nothing to do wtih the current city.

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