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.