Thirteen years after Evanston aldermen bowed to neighbors’ objections and killed plans for subsidized housing on a vacant 5th Ward corner, the possibility of another subsidized development at the site emerged at a community meeting Monday night.

The Rev. Clifford Wilson, pastor ofMount Pisgah Ministry, which owns land at 1811 to 1815Church St. on the block, said that his church would like to develop the city-owned vacant corner property at 1805 Church as senior citizen housing.


Clifford Wilson

Wilson said the church, which has owned property on the block since 1983,had tried for many years to purchase the corner lot from previous owners, but was deterred from buying because of the cost of cleaning up contaminants in the ground left by the former gas station on the site.

The city this spring finally acquired ownership of the property with a deed in lieu of foreclosure from owner Daniel Cheifetz, after the oil company Chevron paid for an environmental cleanup.

The city’s community development manager, Paul Zalmezak, told residents at Monday’s meeting that as a condition of getting Chevron’s payment, the city agreed that if it were to sell the property at a profit, it would owe the oil company up to $100,000 to reimburse it for a portion of the cleanup costs.


Residents Carlis Sutton, Priscilla Giles and Tina Paden.

Wilson said the church had already spent some funds to develop conceptual plans for a possible new development. He said the church recently tore down thehome at 1811 Church as a first step toward redevelopment and has concluded that it will need to also demolish its existing church building at 1813-1815 Church because it would cost too much to retrofit it to meet current codes.

He said he hopes a new building could provide housing for 40 to 45 seniors from the community.

“We’re a small church,” Wilson said. “We have sustantial money collected over the years, but once you start spending big money, it could be gone in no time at all.”

So, he added,he wanted to know that the project had community support before moving forward.

Carlis Sutton, 1821DarrowAve., saidtwo other developments inthe 5th Ward — the 75-unitJacob Blake Manor and the 107-unit Ebenezer Primm Towers— already provide subsidized housing for seniors. Hesaid the Church and Darrow site would be a good location for an additional one.

Albert Gibbs, who said he was born nearby on Dodge Avenue, said the development could lay a foundation for further improvements in the neighborhood.

But he added, “I don’t see that the city is genuine about doing anything to help the black community.”


Robin Rue Simmons.

Some residents suggested other possible uses for the site.

A woman who said she was agranddaughter of the former operator of the gas station said the city should provide training for auto mechanics atthe property, as her grandfather had done, although the location is only a block from Evanston Township High School, which offers an automotive technology training program.

Some residents insisted they didn’t want to see any building over two stories tall at the site. Opposition to the proposed four-story height of the 27-unit Darrow Corners subsidized housing development was one of the factors that led to the defeat of that project in 2016.

Alderman Robin Rue Simmons, 5th Ward, said that once some agreement hasbeen reached about what sort of development neighbors want,the city would issue a request for proposals seeking developers to move forward with the plans.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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