Revised plans for a 15-story residential high rise at 1621 Chicago Ave. drew a negative recommendation from Evanston’s Land Use Commission Wednesday night.

But the 4-5 vote against the plan was a substantial improvement over the 0-7 vote the LUC gave to a previous, 18-story version of the project last fall.

Grace Imathiu.

In heated testimony to the panel, the Rev. Grace Imathiu, senior pastor of 1st United Methodist Church, called the project “blasphemous” and claimed it would lead to more traffic congestion in the alley that separates the church from the building site.

Other opponents repeated objections they’d raised to the project in previous appearances before the commission.

The plan did draw support from speakers concerned that the city needs more downtown residents to replace the office workers now working from home who patronized the district’s businesses before the pandemic.

In commission deliberation, Commissioner George Halik said, “I think this project needs to happen because Evanston needs it.” Now, he said, there are too many empty storefronts and too few people on the street.

But Commissioner Kristine Westerberg said the building, with 140 apartments, was too tall for its downtown transitional zoning district.

“Its a very handsome building,” she said, “but I do think the height is too much.”

The project now goes to the City Council, which can accept or reject that Land Use Commission recommendation.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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