Developers of a planned high-rise at 1621 Chicago Ave. got a chilly reception Wednesday night from long-time opponents of designs for the downtown Evanston site.

The project, from Horizon Realty Group, has been scaled back from an 195-foot tall, 18-story building with 180 apartments, including 18 affordable units, to a 165-foot-tall, 15-story building with 140 apartments, including 10 affordable units.

But opponents who showed up for a community meeting in the Parasol Room at the Civic Center — including representatives of the First United Methodist Church, across an alley from the site — indicated they wanted a building no taller than the 105 feet permitted “as of right” under the zoning code.

The “as of right” rules would also call for a building with no more than 54 units, which would only be required to have five affordable units.

An illustration from the developer comparing the heights of major downtown buildings.

All the additional density and height requested by the developer is within the power of the City Council to grant as site development allowances under the zoning code. Similar allowances have been approved by the City Council in the past for other major downtown developments in the city.

With downtown merchants bemoaning the loss of business from office workers now working remotely, new high-density residential development has been seen as a key factor in strengthening the downtown business climate.

But the six members of the City Council elected or appointed to the body since 2020 have yet to vote on a residential high rise project downtown.

The most recent previous plan for the 1621 Chicago Ave. site was withdrawn by the developer after the Land Use Commission turned thumbs down on it over the height issue.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Housing needs to be built. Even housing that is not low income or low barrier homeless shelters. Evanston is its own worst enemy.

    1. Couldn’t agree more. Evanston has always been a great suburb with urban-like density but NIMBYs are determined to slow progress and ruin it.

  2. Of course the same people came out with the same objections like they have always done with every single development that has ever happened in downtown Evanston. Every development, every single time, exact same people, same groundless objections.

    Simple fact, Downtown Evanston is an URBAN inner ring suburb and this proposal fits the scale of many other buildings all around it. Those buildings and this proposed building did not and will not ruin Evanston. These exact same, continually objecting people have always claimed those developments would ruin Evanston, but they were and still are wrong, just the opposite is true.

    Imagine our downtown if all the newer high rise residents were not here, think downtown is less vibrant now? Imagine all those residents not being here, how ugly, vacant and desolate things would now be without them. Not to mention the missing millions of tax dollars those developments bring each and every year to the whole community. Enough, lets get this project moving forward.

    1. I agree with all comments from previous. Mayor Daley was successful in revitalizing downtown Chicago when he promoted more apartments/tall buildings. With our excellent transportation and the lake, University, and great people, we should attract many workers and active people to our downtown. Why wait?

    2. Unfortunately, Evanston’s “ruling class” seems more committed to giving the “keys to the city” to out – of – town vagrants, druggies, and panhandlers in lieu of encouraging anything that would bring “added value” economic growth…

      This is promoted under the guise of “equity” and “social justice”…

      Gregory Morrow

  3. City Council and LUC needs to stick with our zoning requirements for once. Countless downtown apartment buildings were built by developers who received allowances covering density, parking, and height to name a few. Any new developers feel entitled to the same allowances based on precedents set.

    As far as more people = more business success, that theory does not seem to be holding water with our current densely populated downtown area. Many Evanstonians seem to be choosing to shop and dine in safer locations that are not overpopulated with so many vagrants and aggressive panhandlers.

    1. I disagree. Because of all the residents downtown the business climate here isn’t as bad as it would be without them. Agree Mayor Biss is a complete failure with the homeless/vagrant issue and that is a serious challenge yet to be dealt with. But without those high rise residents our downtown would be nothing more than an empty, dead shell. But hey, I understand change is hard. It’s mostly the same group of older people I always see objecting to these buildings. But like it or not that is not the future here, more residential density is, so lets get on with it.

  4. Maybe these developers could come in with a development that compliments the neighborhood, that doesn’t plant a monstrosity in the middle of it like they continue to try to push through time and time again. These don’t bring neighbors to our city they bring wealthy parents who buy a condo for their Northwestern student till they graduate and then they are all off. No real value to our community but some few tax dollars. Maybe NW could try chipping in a lot more!

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