Plan panel to vote on expanding sites for offices

Downtown parcels outlined in red on the would be opened to more office uses.

Evanston's Plan Commission is scheduled to vote tonight on a proposal that would open up option for office uses in portions of some high-density residential districts downtown.

The change would affect properties in the R5 and R6 zones -- the highest density residential zones in the city -- that are adjacent to D2 or D3 downtown zoning districts.

City staff has identified seven areas that would be affected by the change. One of those is the west side of the block of Chicago Avenue between Church and Clark streets -- which includes the parking lot the city is considering selling to an office building developer.

As currently proposed that project would require a map amendment to shift its zoning to a downtown district. Because of a petition filed by neighbors, approving the map amendment would require support from seven of the nine aldermen -- a level of support backers of the office building have been unable to muster.

With the proposed text amendment to change what's allowed under current zoning, the office building plans would only need support from six aldermen to win approval. The text amendment itself could be adopted by a simple majority of the Council.

Eleven opponents of the office building project spoke in opposition to the proposed text amendment at a Plan Commission hearing on the proposal last month.

Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, suggested the text amendment. She has argued that the city needs to add more office space to draw more workers into the downtown area to support retail businesses there.

Latest figures from the real estate research firm CoStar indicate that Evanston currently has an office vacancy rate of about 5 percent -- which is considered very low.

The Plan Commission is also scheduled tonight to consider another proposal from Fiske. That one would change the zoning code to require special use approval for new residential care homes.

Related stories

Office building foes oppose zoning change (5/30/19)

Fiske seeks new path to office building approval (5/28/19)

Tighter liimits on group homes proposed (11/14/18)

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