Church wins panel's backing for housing development

A preliminary rendering of the Mt. Pisgah proposal.

The Mt. Pisgah Ministry won backing from members of Evanston's Economic Development Committee Wednesday for its plan to acquire a vacant city-owned lot at 1805 Church St. and build affordable housing on it.

The informal recommendation during a discussion session came even though city staff rated the church as having less financial capability to complete the project than the other respondent to the city's request for qualifications -- the Housing Opportunity Development Corporation.

Alderman Robin Rue Simmons, 5th Ward, said she favored the church proposal because it would support "community values."

The church has owned property adjacent to the city's land for decades and has long sought to acquire it for an affordable housing development.


1805 Church St. (Google Maps)

HODC has history with the site as well. It was the developer that proposed to build affordable housing on the vacant former gas station site once before -- a plan that that was rejected by City Council on a 5-4 vote in 2006 after strong opposition from some neighbors.

Some of the same neighbors turned out in January to object to the church's plans, but Rue Simmons said "the community would rally behind" the church on the project.

Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, said the developers have "fantastic people representing each team."

"You probably couldn't find a better affordable housing developer" than HODC, Rainey said, noting that they have completed several successful projects in Evanston.

But HODC has a lot on their plate, Rainey said, and "I wouldn't support them for this property."

Economic Development Manager Paul Zalmezak told the committee he would check with the city's Law Department to decide how to best proceed on the project.

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