Aldermen split 6-3 on Albion high rise

Robin Rue Simmons.

Evanston aldermen voted 6-3 in favor of the proposed 15-story Albion Residential project on Sherman Avenue in introducing the planned development Monday night.

The project will require a simple majority vote to win final approval at a meeting on Nov. 13.

Among the supporters Monday only one, Alderman Robin Rue Simmons, 5th Ward, indicated she had reservations which, if not addressed, might affect her final vote.

Rue Simmons suggested she wanted to see some revisions in the public benefits the developer is offering in return for the development allowances the city is being asked to approve.

But Rue Simmons said the developer's proposal to include 15 affordable units on site is great. And she criticized what she called "fear mongering" among opponents of the development.

"This building is not displacing any black residents," Rue Simmons said, adding that "no one project is going to solve our affordable housing issue."

Eleanor Revelle.

Voting against the project, Alderman Eleanor Revelle, 7th Ward, said the city "is kind of floundering because we don't have an agreed upon vision of where we're going to go with the downtown."

She said she wants more tax revenue for the city and schools and said the on-site affordable housing "is really exciting."

But she said she didn't believe the scale and mass of the project is appropriate to the site, and that it fails to provide an appropriate transition to nearby low-rise residential areas from the core downtown.

She was joined by Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, who said the project should follow the specifications of the 2009 Downtown Plan, even though three successive City Councils have chosen not to implement its zoning provisions.

Also voting no, Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, who said, "I'm not convinced we need more rental residential buildings downtown."

But Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, who voted yes, said he was bothered by objections from opponents "to migrants and transients" who might live in the new development.

"I'm really stunned by some of the insulting language used about people who would live there," Wilson added.

And, responding to suggestions that only a much shorter building should be allowed on the property, he said, "You can't tell me that somebody building condos in a four- or five-story building on this site will be able to make them affordable -- they'll be completely unaffordable."

Joining Wilson and Rue Simmons in voting yes were aldermen Peter Braithwaite, Tom Suffredin, Ann Rainey and Cicely Fleming.

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Comments

Remember 'transient academics'?

These statements remind me of my all-time favorite Evanston Now story from a few years ago. It was about a group who was trying to block an extended stay hotel in Evanston, saying it must be a "quality hotel" that would not attract "transient academics." The project ultimately became a Hyatt House, and not a "Tower of Transients."

"But Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, who voted yes, said he was bothered by objections from opponents "to migrants and transients" who might live in the new development."

"I'm really stunned by some of the insulting language used about people who would live there," Wilson added.

Albion High Rise

I would also ike to share some of the text of Alderman Robin Rue Simmons comments at last nights meeting. She has some very insightfu lcomments related to how the opposition to this project have used their platform to try and stop this project.

Alderman Simmons words "From the beginning of this it seems to have transitioned into a matter of 'affordable housing and race relations' and it started off as 'aesthetics and zoning' and it just seems as though it's a moving target against the project. I said at our last meetingthat aesthetically I'm not a fan of it but there are opportunities to challenge the developers on the public benefits. I do agree that we should comply in a way with our inclusionary housing ordinance. The 15 units is great and the additional benefit as proposed is ok. It's not good enough. It appears to me that there is fear mongering. This building is not displacing any black residents. It is a commercial structure that we heard the owners say, is closing. No one is being displaced. There is an opportunity for increased housing and I think we focus on what is real. And this is a real opportunity to challenge the developer for improved public benefit and I would like to continue discussing it." 

Thom again, Alderman Rue Simmons nails it on the oppositions moving target. When they can't get what they want on one issue they move to another. Now it seems race baiting. I have seen them lie about zoning and when I challenged them on the their misinterprepation of the zoning they moved on to some other tactic.

You can see far they will go to stop thoughtful development that benefits our community. It is one thing to fight with facts, another to use any means availalabe. I thought Evanstonians were better than this.