A rendering of the proposed development, showing the planned apartment building on the left and the new church building on the right.

Plans to redevelop about a half-block stretch on the north side of Church Street west of Darrow Avenue call for building a new home for the Mt. Pisgah Ministry and 44 affordable apartments.

The preliminary proposal was presented at a 5th Ward meeting Thursday evening by Richard Koenig, executive director of the non-profit Housing Opportunity Development Corporation.

A Google Earth image of the block with Mt. Pisgah’s land outlined in yellow, and the city-owned parcel outlined in red.

Most of the land involved is currently vacant, except for the existing church building at the western edge of the site.

The city-owned parcel on the corner of Darrow Avenue has been vacant for many years. It once was a gas station and was acquired by the city in 2019 after an environmental cleanup.

HODC had previously proposed to redevelop the now city-owned parcel with 27-units of affordable housing, but the City Council rejected that plan in 2006 on a 5-4 vote.

After the city acquired the former gas station property in 2019, it sought proposals to redevelop it. The only two proposals submitted came from HODC and Mt. Pisgah, and after about a year of discussions the two entities decided to collaborate on a combined redevelopment plan.

Richard Koenig.

Plans Koenig showed for the new apartment building include about 28 parking spaces and about 3,000 square feet of retail space on the ground floor with four floors of apartments above that, with 11 units on each floor.

The building would have 11 one-bedroom units, 22 two-bedroom units and 11 three-bedroom units.

The government-subsidized development would be targeted to households earning less that 60% of area median income.

The income limits vary by household size. Koenig said the maximum income for a one-person household would be $39,180 a year, rising to a cap of $64,920 for a six-person household.

The proposed church building would be two stories tall and would have a worship space with a capacity of 200 people plus meeting rooms, fellowship space and a conference center.

HODC, which has offices in Skokie, has more than 20 affordable housing developments across the north suburbs, including several in Evanston.

The project would require a complex mix of funding sources to move forward. Koenig said those could include a bank loan, federal and state low-income housing tax credits, tax increment district funding and other sources.

It would also require approval of zoning variances by the city.

The plans were immediately attacked at the meeting by two local landlords whose opposition to redevelopment of the site dates back to the plan rejected by the City Council 15 years ago.

Carlis Sutton called the project “highly problematic,” claiming that there would be no priority for Evanston residents, that $600 a month isn’t affordable for anybody on Social Security and that any development should fit within existing zoning for the site.

Although the plans will face a long round of city hearings before they could be approved, Tina Paden said there would be no community input and the project would be passed at the next city meeting. “This is kiss my butt, we don’t care what you say,” Paden asserted.

Although the church is black-owned, Paden said, “We never get any black developers in Evanston.”

“This is a slap in the face,” she added.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.