What the plan called for south of Simpson Street and West of Green Bay Road.

Fifteen years after Evanston adopted a plan for redeveloping a section of the former Mayfair railroad corridor, city staff says the plan is hurting rather than helping the neighborhood.

In a memo up for discussion at Monday’s City Council Planning and Development Committee meeting, Zoning Administrator Melissa Klotz says aspects of the West Evanston Master Plan and the corresponding zoning overlay district “are outdated, ineffective and now create substantial barriers to the community revitalization they are supposed to encourage.”

What the same area looks like today (Google Maps)

Except for the 32-unit Emerson Square development at Foster and Ashland, built almost a decade ago using $13 million in federal, state and local funds, none of the revitalization imagined by the plan has been realized.

One major obstacle to redevelopment is a plan requirement that developers pay to create new streets where the street grid was broken by the rail line.

Klotz says “doing so is cost prohibitive, may increase vehicular traffic” and removes property from the tax rolls. The new infrastructure, Klotz notes, then “requires life-long maintenance by the city.”

In addition, she says, most of the proposed streets straddle property lines and include parcels that are not available for sale.

The plan, she says, also limits redevelopment options for industrial properties to residential uses — even though, she says, both new industrial and residential uses are needed in the city.

Further south, between Emerson and Church streets, none of the new development the plan envisioned in this area has actually happened.

In the memo, Klotz says the plan has stymied several development projects — including efforts to redevelop the National Awards property at 1611 Church St., a planned townhome and apartment development at 2044 Wesley Ave. and proposals to redevelop the former gas station site at 1805 Church St.

The memo suggests developing a new plan for the west Evanston area as part of a larger Comprehensive Plan project.

The city has been trying to get the comprehensive plan project underway for more than a year, to replace the existing comprehensive plan that was adopted in 2000.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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