Members of Evanston Plan Commission asked city staff Wednesday night to provide more information in the future about the impact of new development projects on local schools.

The request came while the commission was debating whether to recommend approval of the 242-unit development at 831 Emerson St.

Commissioner Peter Isaac said some schools, including Dewey Elementary where he’s a parent, are at or near capacity. And the downtown area that’s seeing the most development is in the Dewey attendance zone.

Commissioner Andrew Pigozzi, a former member of the District 65 school board, said that when he was on the board a lot of development was happening in the Lincoln attendance area, and when that it turned out the new developments had “a negligible effect on enrollment” because most residents of the new projects didn’t have school-age children.

Commission Chair Jim Ford said that in other communities, like Glenview, “schools would have been in on the discussion with the village from the beginning” on any large-scale development.

“Talking to the schools early would be a real good idea as a general practice,” Ford said.

Justin Pelej, of Focus Development, which proposed the 831 Emerson project, said similar apartment projects, including the Focus development at 1717 Ridge in Evanston, tend to have very few children as residents — perhaps five to 10 — he said.

Isaac tried to postpone the commission’s vote on the 831 Emerson project to await more information about the impact on schools, but Commissioner Colby Lewis said that that it would be unfair to change the rules now on a project that had been submitted in good faith in compliance with the city’s existing rules.

Isaac’s motion to postpone a vote on the 831 Emerson project failed for lack of a second and the commission approved the plans on a 6-1 vote.

The project still requires approval by the City Council and is expected to be on its agenda next month.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Again—where do 1500 new students come from ?

    The article only talks about a couple of new buildings, but does this not give weight to the question of where all the 1500 new students come from ? Seems odd that high rises, new apartment/condo building would bring in that many kids. Have so many new houses been built–where, I sure don’t see them. Population has not been growing. The city change in number of parking spaces for new building indicates they think more people [elderly?] are moving into the buildings. Hard to believe families with kids don’t need cars. Once again the city puts out conflicting statement.

    1. not from highrises

      The kids don’t come from downtown highrises.  But I like the idea of verifying that fact, then the nimby population will be denied yet another alleged attribution against high rise development. 

      My neighborhood has seen a steady turnover of homes, elderly empty nesters selling to younger couples with multiple school aged children.  Two doors down another home has gone on market, an elderly woman is selling, kids gone for decades, anyone want to bet against the buyers being a young couple with school aged children?  In a few more years we will be doing the same and I’m pretty confident the buyers will have school age children.  There is a real and substantial net increase of kids in my neighborhood, it’s a natural cycle of turnover but it’s been especially prevelant these past couple years. 

      For us, that downtown highrise lifestyle looks really attractive, it appeals to empty nesters, young singles and people with no kids.    

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