Neighbors attack Emerson apartment plans

Markus Lechleitner.

Neighbors of what would be the first sizable market-rate new housing development on Evanston's west side in many years sharply criticized the proposal at a Design and Project Review Committee meeting Wednesday.

One speaker, Markus Lechleitner of 1919 Wesley Ave., acknowledged that the proposed five-story apartment buildings could be built within the existing 50-foot height limit for the proposed sites in the 1400 block of Emerson Street and the 1900 block of Jackson Avenue.


The land proposed for the new buildings highlighted in yellow.

But he and other neighbors who live in the 1900 block of Wesley said the new buildings wouldn't fit in with the mostly two-story single family homes and small apartment buildings that now exist in the area.

He argued that the city should rezone the properties to reduce the permitted height.


John Domanus.

Libertyville-based developer John Domanus had submitted preliminary plans to the city last fall to build 44 two-bedroom condominium units in two buildings on a total of seven lots, four facing Emerson just east of Jackson and three facing Jackson just north of the alley north of Emerson.

The plans he discussed Wednesday called for expanding the Emerson-facing site to include two adjoining properties to the east.

They also called for shifting the project to have a mix of one-, two- and three-bedroom units, all of which would be rentals, and which would include 10 percent affordable units, as required by the city's inclusionary housing ordinance.


Robin Rue Simmons.

Alderman Robin Rue Simmons, whose 5th Ward includes the site, said she found the new plan for rental apartments "less exciting" than the earlier proposal for condominiums. "That would have been interesting, to encourage ownership in the neighborhood," she said.

But the scale of the project, she added "is completely in conflict" with the area.

She said she'd like to see the two large structures proposed "broken up into multiple buildings" and would like to have at least some of the units be available for ownership.


Betty Ester, Priscilla Giles and Albert Gibbs.

Priscilla Giles, of 1829 Ashland Ave., said the proposed new development "would displace more people than it would house."

Betty Ester said vulnerable people were being forced out of the neighborhood by the project.

And Gary Joyce, a developer who rehabbed and sold numerous homes in the immediate area, said the existing small homes "are the backbone of what most people think about in living in Evanston. We're proud, diverse and have deep neighborhood roots."

With no formal proposal before it, DAPR took no action on the project, but committee members made a variety of suggestions for possible revisions to the plans and outlined city requirements that would have to be met.


Jacob Blake Manor (Google Maps.)

Although most of the neighborhood is low-rise, it does include the five-story Jacob Blake Manor senior housing development at 1615 Emerson St.

The project is also scheduled to be discussed at a 5th Ward meeting at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, April 10, in Room G300 at the Civic Center.

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