The new owners of a house near the Evanston lakefront have drawn fire from neighbors over a plan to move the home and subdivide its lot.

1501 Forest Ave.
1501 Forest Ave.

The rambling, Victorian-era home at 1501 Forest Ave. needs substantial work after being tied up in an estate for years, and new owners Janet and Jeffrey Clements won approval from the Preservation Commission last month to tear down additions that weren’t part of the original 1888 structure.


The later additions to the house.

They now are seeking permission to relocate the original building 20 feet east and 20 feet south on the lot.

They also want to subdivide the property, on the northeast corner of Forest and Lake Street, into two lots and potentially build a new home on what would be a newly-created corner lot.

Several neighbors in the Lakeshore Historic District, led by Frank Cicero, a partner in the Chicago law firm Kirkland & Ellis LLP, object to the plans.

Cicero, who lives across the street at 222 Lake St., complains that the commission granted approval to demolish the additions to the home although the new owners had not followed commission rules that say they should notify neighbors of the proposal.

But Carlos Ruiz, the city’s preservation coordinator, says that while the rules ask that neighbors be notified, the city’s preservation ordinance does not give the commission the power to require the notification. He says the commission’s meeting was properly noticed with announcements posted in the Civic Center and mailed to subscribers to the commission’s e-mail list.

Ruiz says the commission, after studying the 1906 additions to the building, determined that they were not architecturally significant and granted a certificate of appropriateness for the demolition.

The proposal to move the house and subdivide the lot is now scheduled to be discussed at a special Preservation Commission meeting at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 3, at the Civic Center.

In a letter to neighbors, Cicero said, “Many of us believe their proposal will change drastically the character of this neighborhood and will inevitably set the stage for further erosion of this historic area by setting a dangerous precedent.”

The lot at 1501 Forest is larger than most others nearby, and if subdivided it would result in two 7,200 square foot lots — the minimum size required under city zoning in the area’s R1 residential zone.


The owners of this 129 year old home at 215 Lake St. object to the plan for relocating the house next door …

Existing homes in the immediate area were built in several different styles over a 50-year period ranging from 1879 to 1929 on lots that range from 5,214 to 23,350 square feet in size.


… as do the owners of this home across the street at 303 Lake St., built 79 years ago.

Ruiz says that, if the house is moved, it would be the first time that has happened in his 17 years with the city, but he noted that over time many historic homes have been relocated, in Evanston and elsewhere.

He said some neighbors have argued that the move would lead to increased traffic or views from neighboring homes being blocked. “But those concerns are not part of our purview,” Ruiz said.

The objective of the preservation ordinance, he said, “is to allow people to enjoy living in landmark homes with today’s lifestyle, without having an adverse effect on the overall historic district. Otherwise we’d have a museum district, and people would only be allowed to restore buildings to their original state.”

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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28 Comments

  1. Increased Traffic?
    He said some neighbors have argued that the move would lead to increased traffic or views from neighboring homes being blocked. “But those concerns are not part of our purview,” Ruiz said.

    Increased traffic? Are neighbors really concerned that subdividing the lot and creating an additional single family residence will create ‘increased traffic’?

    Or perhaps this is just standard NIMBY complaint language? Whenever someone requests a permit, variance, or license , they just recite the usual list of ‘character, charm, history, traffic, uniqueness’?

    I am glad that Mr. Ruiz isn’t touching that.

  2. The problems of north Evanston
    Ah, yes — the problems of north Evanston. Every once in a while, I see a story that clearly shows that we have two different worlds in Evanston.

    On the north side, the concerns are character, charm, history, traffic, uniqueness. Oh, my — how could someone consider building another huge, expensive single family home on a huge lot? There might be another two cars on our streets. Let’s make certain that we all show up at City Hall and object to this to preserve all that we hold dear.

    Meanwhile, here on the south side, the concerns are shootings, guns fired, open and notorious drug houses (ignored by judicial and law enforcement officials) and street fights with violence and noise from the late evening into the early morning.

    I wish that those on the north side (especially the Aldermen and Alderwomen) would show at least a little concern about these basic quality-of-life issues for those of us who live in south Evanston. Any ideas on why they don’t?

    1. Can we all ever get along?
      “I wish that those on the north side (especially the Aldermen and Alderwomen) would show at least a little concern about these basic quality-of-life issues for those of us who live in south Evanston. Any ideas on why they don’t?”

      I agree with the intent, if not the intensity, of the concerns of Anonymous. It seems that there are still divisions in the community that reflect some of the history of Evanston’s founding and development. I think that there are more than 2 Evanston’s however.

      There have been several articles that have described how the community boundaries were formed and what the issues were. The topic itself would be a good focus for a community forum and discussion. Maybe with a theme “Creating Bridges Over Troubled Waters.” It might seem a bit silly in this day and age. But from this anonymous writer’s perspective, it does not appear that we have much of a consensus about what our most important community issues are these days.

    2. “North Evanston”?
      You just made quite a generalization about those of us who live in north Evanston. I live in north Evanston. I am concerned about “basic quality of life issues for those…” for those of you who live in “south Evanston.” Also, Lake street is not north Evanston. I would say it’s central Evanston. Perhaps you can come up with some sweeping generalization about those who reside in the center of town?

      1. Typical display of concern about South Evanston
        It’s not a sweeping generalization to say that those who live north of Main Street either don’t know or don’t care about the problems south of Main Street.

        Tell me about your concern. What exactly have you done to show it? Hmm…let me guess. You posted a web comment saying that you are concerned. Yippee! Thanks for the strong show of support.

        Why not come to court when the drug dealers and illegal apartments in south Evanston on the docket? Why not participate in a neighborhood walk in south Evanston? Why not come to housing court for the boarded up windows that are never fixed in south Evanston rental units? Have you ever asked your alderman NOT to approve the low-income housing funding request after low-income housing funding request only south of Main Street?

        Tell me — how many shots fired have you heard or how many drug deals have you witnessed in front of your house in the last 12 months?

        Sorry but I guess that we don’t need to engage in a meaningless discussion of the location of “central” Evanston because the dividing line, for purposes of quality of life issues being ignored in south Evanston, is Main Street. Instead of real concern or action, we get arrogance about where Lake Street is located. Typical.

        1. Anonymous – South Evanston problems are not being solved
          South Evanston problems will not be solved by people going to court. By the way I went to one of the neighborhood meeting when the police were there. I also went ot another at the Levy Center. I have also been to another one of youre neighborhood events – I live in far North Evanston by the Wilmette boarder.

          I agree 100% fhe city has created the mess we have here in this town. The council members are to blame.

          Those in this town who think a stepped up police present is going to solve the problem – better think again. I suspect we may have a riot in one of these neighborhoods with people shooting at the police – ( by the way we have had several in the past they just have been covered up – one police officer did get injuried although no one was shooting)

          I have stated this many times you need to change who lives in the neighborhoods – if you don’t want to do that – you can spent the rest of your life going on marches and in housing court. I am quite happy to spend taxes dollar on correcting the problems but our current council members are clueless. Since we have already wasted millions over the years here dealing with these problem areas in town with no results.

          1. I beg to differ
            Look at the crime map for the boundaries of Brummel Park and you will see that community activism has had a slow but definite positive impact on crime in the area. Over the last several years, neighbors have attended meetings with police, court dates, community building events, and have made a difference. This systemic problem won’t go away overnight: it takes constant, long-term persistence.

            Find out more about Brummel Park Neighbors and Michele Hays

          2. Can you prove you have not just displaced the problem?
            Michele – have you just displaced the problem to another Evanston neighborhood? The 8th ward has many neighborhoods – looking at the 8th ward quicktopic – everyone continues to talk about crime so what results are you talking about?
            I believe currently on the 8th ward quicktopic they are talking about one individual who keeps getting arrested and is out on bail all the time.

            It does not appear going to court will work since few if any citizens have the time to keep after these people.

            I once suggested to a council member the city monitor the courts in Skokie – and report back to citizens – being a lawyer he did not like the idea much since he was going to court there. One of our major problems too many lawyers on the council.

          3. Again, no actual (legal) solutions offered…
            Shall we tar and feather the “criminals” as we ride them out of town on a rail, or is eliminating basic civil liberties part of the Evanston ethic?

            And in response to your comments about displacing crime from one neighborhood to another… Guess what, that how it works: Criminals get the idea that they can’t do business where they are (thanks to vigilant neighbors cooperating with police) and so they move to other areas. Pity those poor, poor residents of those new neighborhoods… they’ll have to pick up the mantle of civic responsibility and create neighborhood watch programs of their own and coordinate with police to move the criminals to the next neighborhood, and so on.

            No one wants to have crime in their neighborhood, but I also think no one wants a totalitarian state to tell us who can and cannot live where they please.

            Or did you have a legal way of discouraging criminals from returning to our community…? Yup, thought not.

            Jason

          4. Legal?
            Jason – Please explain what illegal solutions I have proposed? Actually many of the things going on the 8th wardquick topic – may have problems more than any solutions I have suggested. But greater minds than I can figure that out.

            It is not even clear if you have just displace the criminals a few blocks over in the 8th ward by the statements being made.

            By the way you statement “No one wants to have crime in their neighborhood, but I also think no one wants a totalitarian state to tell us who can and cannot live where they please.” I have never stated people could not live were they please – you are are making that statement not me. I have suggested the City do a better job of attracting new residents into troubled areas. who have the money to buy condos. I have not suggested a totalitarian state – I am sorry you can not face the approach being taken will not work in the long run – but by all means continue to go to court and have neighborhood meetings.

        2. Look up the definition of generalization
          “It’s not a sweeping generalization to say that those who live north of Main Street either don’t know or don’t care about the problems south of Main Street.” It isn’t? Here’s the defninition of generalization: a proposition asserting something to be true either of all members of a certain class or of an indefinite part of that class. Furthermore, you conclude that I have done nothing more than post a comment on the web to show my concern for those of you who live in south Evanston. You know nothing about me, and what I have done to assist in the lives of all Evanstonians. I was elected to the D65 school board and served from 1999-2003. This is just one of many volunteer positions I have held over the last decade. I spent many hours at Oakton, Chute and Lincoln Schools working with principals, teachers and PTAs during my tenure. My votes in support of issues directly affecting Oakton School confirm this fact. You are angry, bitter and divisive and resort to generalizations and insults towards people you have never met and know nothing about. Or perhaps you have met me. I wouldn’t know because you only post anonymously. Stop with the insults and post your name.

          1. Greg – thought school board members worked for all children?
            Greg – I thought school board members worked for all children not children in a particular school? your comment “My votes in support of issues directly affecting Oakton School confirm this fact.”

            Have test scores improved in the school districts here since your were involved? It appears to me the high school is in trouble for no child left behind.

          2. Pointing to Oakton as an example of your concern? Unbelievable
            So you were the anonymous post that I answered?

            “You are angry, bitter and divisive… .” Talk about insults and not knowing someone but throwing plenty of mud. Actually, I’m just honest and not willing to bow to those who refuse to recognize the obvious.

            There is no concern about south Evanston displayed by those living north of Main Street. Deny it all you like but it’s a fact. South Evanston has been struggling for years with no reason for optimism.

            You raise Oakton School and your support of it and work there. News flash: Oakton School’s academic results have been a DISGRACE for more than a decade. The lowest or second lowest in the District for years running.

            The fact that you point to serving on the School Board as some indication that you care about south Evanston is truly laughable. The School Board allowed Oakton School to flounder year after year after year, while class after class of 5th graders left unprepared for middle school and high school.

            Maybe now, something positive will happen for the school after years of neglect by those claiming to “serve” the school. I am hopeful that the new principal will continue to lead and build a coalition at that school. It was “divide and conquer” over there for the years that you were on the Board. But maybe you didn’t notice that. A lot of parents did and they left Oakton School and the District because of it.

            Maybe you’d be a little peeved if your tax dollars were soaked up by District 65 with the consistently WORST school in the district as the option for your children. Again, north of Main Street, don’t worry — be happy! Private school results from the public schools there.

            I post anonymously so that I do not face retribution from those who protect District 65 and its incompetence at all costs. While I no longer need to worry about my children being affected by this retribution, I have no desire to be on the District’s “complainers” list. I tolerated District 65 as many parents at Oakton still do because our family had no option for private school.

            Were you on the School Board when Hardy Murphy was hired? If so, thanks a lot for that decision. It was a truly horrible choice.

            Maybe if the “civic leaders” would start listening to residents, rather than preaching to us, we’d have some positive change in this town — reducing crime, for example.

          3. More ignorance
            Anonymous, You state “there is no concern about south Evanston displayed by those living north of Main Street. Deny it all you like but it’s a fact.” Astounding. You are now generalizing about virtually all of Evanston, not just those who live in north Evanston as you initially wrote in your first anonymous post. How can you possibly claim as “fact” that an estimated 50,000 people don’t care what happens south of Main St? It’s hard to discuss anything with someone who makes such ignorant statements. You simply do not understand that one should not generalize about any group of people based on age, race, income level, geographic region etc.. Oh, and I love it when posters claim “fear of retribution” as a reason for posting anonymously. Please cite an an example of any city or school official taking action against those who have posted here. And Junad-you should know, having watched all those meetings years ago, that I represented all of Evanston’s schools. I was merely pointing out that when policies and issues affecting Oakton school were brought before the board, I voted to do what I thought was in the best interest of Oakton school students.

          4. Typical ignorant response
            I agree about the ignorance of the response — yours. Not one word from you on Oakton School failing thousands of students on your watch? And many, many of those failed students were minorities? Can’t really defend those results, can you?

            Instead, you preach about generalizations about the poor, misunderstood folks north of Main Street. First, why don’t you look up the word “hyperbole” in the dictionary. Then, post some concrete examples of how the problems of south Evanston how been addressed in the last 10 years with solutions that have worked to reduce crime and lift Oakton School out of miserable academic status. Why not take up that fight for your fellow citizens than your preaching to me, a real nobody, on this web site?

            Typical of “civic leaders” in Evanston. Avoid obvious shortcomings but preach, preach, preach and finger wag about putting labels on people. Please note: results you cited – zero, preaching – 100 percent.

            There is real retribution in this town. Certainly, you’ve never been the victim but I know plenty of people who have. This town’s “progressive” reputation is an illusion.

          5. Ignorance is in the eyes of the beholder
            Rather than blast GK, why don’t you blast the societal culture that drags these kids down.

            As the Rev. Meeks drama with New Trier demonstrates, it isn’t lack of expenditures per pupil that is the problem. Evanston spends more per pupil than New Trier, so it isn’t money.

            So that leaves the teachers, administration and the parent(s) as the culprit(s). We pay our teachers and administration very well (especially the superintendent) so the presumption is that they are professional and well trained, and besides they are tenured.

            Mr. Who Knows What? may blame it on old school buildings, but some of the buildings are not so old.

            Well, what’s left?

          6. old school buildings
            Anonymous Anonymous wrote
            Mr. Who Knows What? may blame it on old school buildings, but some of the buildings are not so old.

            Mr. Who Knows avoids commenting on educational policy, as it will distract from the fight against the NIMBYs. However, perhaps better education would solve the problem of NIMBYism.

            I have nothing against old school buildings, if they are safe, cost effective, and meet the needs of students. However, I see no need to preserve obsolete and costly old school buildings just because they are old ( e.g., Civic Center).

          7. Old school buildings, etc.
            Mr. Who Knows What is not against old buildings!

            Another old building, the Civic Center, a classic case of deferred maintenance syndrome, presents one slight problem. Where are our financial wizards going to get the $50 to $70 million for a new one? There won’t be enough coming from sale of the property (especially in this thriving real estate market) and there is the inconvenient problem of the $140 million, oops, $145 million, police and fire pension underfunding.

            I suppose we should hope to have the audacity to tax the wealthy.

          8. Audacity
            Another old building, the Civic Center, a classic case of deferred maintenance syndrome, presents one slight problem. Where are our financial wizards going to get the $50 to $70 million for a new one?

            Vito – here is how:

            1. Sell the current property.
            2. Cut back on city services – we could get by with a smaller government.
            3. Permit more development. For example, if a guy wants to move his house 20 feet and build another house on his large lot, we should let him.
            4. As I have written many times before, permit NU to build up, in exchange for putting other properties back on the tax lists.

            Most importantly –

            5. Aldermen should spend their time on finance and city services, not on silly arguments over zoning variances.

          9. audacious hope
            1. Sell the current property so that it can remain empty as with other recent “developments” and get nowhere near the $50 to $70 million required. What about that $145 megabucks and growing pension irritation?

            2. Cut back on services! Smaller government! OMG! What would all those ex city employees do? What about: Diversity? Affordable housing? Being Green? Sustainability? Sanctuary city? Anti War? The unions would have a fit. (Are you a Palin fan?) Where would all the liberals go?

            3. Get rid of zoning all together! Is it Dallas or Houston that has no zoning? You could build a chicken farm next to the Dawes house! A pig farm next to the new Civic Center and use the methane from the excrement for energy!

            4. Good luck with NU. Somehow our city elders seem to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory every time they deal with NU.

            5. How can our alderman deal with finances, they have only ten fingers. Besides they and their consultants do not accept NPV.

            Have you thought of running for mayor?

          10. some good ideas
            Vito –
            I like your idea about getting rid of zoning altogether, and exploring alternative uses for the land near the civic center and Dawes house. But your constant repetition of the phony issue of ‘NPV’, like Senator McCain’s repeated mentioning of his POW status, is just tiresome.

            Anyway, this thread has gone to far down. The margins are too thin, and it should not be continued further.

    3. Lacking sympathy
      I have to agree with this comment. I have gangs, drugs, and shootings in my back yard, and these people are complaining about their obstructed view of the lake? Pardon me if I lack sympathy for these “problems.”

  3. This Old House
    Moving a house 20ft east and 20ft south, and Mr. Cicero really thinks this will negatively impact the character of this neighborhood? And some neighbors are concerned about an increase in traffic? Blocking scenic views? Really?

    This must be a joke? Or a slow news day in Evanston?

    Give. Me. A. Break.

    The only thing it seems the neighbors forgot to complain about was an increase in crime. That usually gets ppl fired up.

    I would like to suggest to Mr. Cicero that he maintain a focused perspective on reality, but then I realize he is a lawyer. Surely he does not propose keeping the house in the condition that it currently is? By the looks of the photo’s I would argue that the new owners are enhancing the neighborhood with their plans.

    I recall a couple of years ago hearing about the owner ( a lawyer) of the church on the corner of Greenleaf/Elmwood. He was converting it into a home (beautifully completed, btw) and wanted to add a two car garage that would put it almost on the property lines of his neighbors. They didn’t like that idea so he threatened them with court action if they resisted. Nice neighborly thing to do…for a lawyer.

    These kinds of overblown rhetoric by disgruntled neighbors has come to be expected in our society, I suppose.

  4. secede from the north
    A story about neighbors upset over a house moving 20 feet somehow generated comments about how those living in north Evanston don’t care about their southern neighbors.

    If it’s that much of a problem, maybe southsiders should organize and protest for secession. Seems the boundary line would be Main Street. That way, southsiders won’t have to worry about their uncaring northerners and can resolve their own problems.

    Anonymous Al

    1. partition
      I propose that Evanston, like Caesar’s Gaul, be divided into three parts.

      Here is a general outline of the partition:

      1. Evanston ( present day Downtown+NU campus )
      Condo lovers and NU students can live in harmony, and we can build our towers in our city.

      2. Nimbystan (present day wards 6 and 7 )
      Old people who have lived in their single family homes for 30 years. They will be delighted once their city no longer borders Chicago. Perhaps they can even merge with Wilmette after the partition.

      3. East Skokie – ( wards 8,9,2)
      Like its neighbor Skokie, this new city can attract businesses and shopping centers -if its leaders are willing to encourage development and fight the evil , NIMBYs . New Yellow line service will make it attractive for commuters to Chicago.

      Of course, the exact borders will be subject to negotation and adjustment. The Civic Center and Dawes House will naturally be in Nimbystan – this can be done by creating enclaves (think Danzig or West Berlin), or by actually relocating the buildings. 708 Church and the “Historic Hahn Building” also belong in Nimbystan , and they will be moved to make way for the new 57 story tower/civic center in downtown Evanston.

      Ryan Field and the CTA purple line will be part of Evanston – but areas immediately adjacent to these facilities will be part of Nimbystan, so people who buy or rent houses next to the tracks or stadium will still be free to complain about the noise.

      1. Who – silly proposals hiding behind your computer —-
        Who -silly proposals hiding behind your computer will not work – you should come to the budget hearing or better yet come to Monday nights council – if you want to see were your tax dollars are being wasted.

        By the way Who – at last weeks special council meeting – One other citizen and myself were all that was present – the room was full of city employees – one item was the capital plan – maybe you should get a copy – if you look at it you might get a understanding of what is and is not going on here.

        Don’t worry about the Civic Center – the staff decide somehow to not include the roof in the plan – but stated it would cost 2.7 million dollars to fix – by the way – if they knew what they were doing the cost would be far less- that is if the council knew how to provide any direction.

        You need to stop worrying about 7200 sq ft lots and focus on the real problem the continue misuse of the tax dollars here by public officials.

        By the way Who – they mentioned they are down by 80 staff members ask youself in you infinite wisdom why would we need a tax increase when 10% of the payroll is down?

        Why don’t you come to the council and speak?

  5. 7200 square feet is not a large lot
    I sympathize with the neighbors’ concern over moving the house and subdividing the lot. A 7200 square foot lot is a 50×144 lot. That’s a decent size, but not huge. The house built on it would likely be quite large and no doubt maxing out its footprint, its height and so on.

    Is there any doubt this will have an impact on the two homes’ immediate neighbors that far exceeds concerns over two more cars on the street?

    It’s a teardown scenario, and one that people all over Evanston and in other suburbs can relate to. It’s simply happening in a more expensive neighborhood.

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