Recent neighborhood meetings about a planned new apartment building at 831 Emerson St. have made it clear that there’s still one group in Evanston that it’s considered politically correct to hate.


That’s right, it’s college students.

People who wouldn’t be caught dead publicly saying they don’t want to live near black people or poor people are perfectly comfortable arguing that college students should be confined to a ghetto east of Sheridan Road.

And nobody at those meetings calls them on it.


Hate may be a strong word, but if you don’t want members of a certain group living near you, it follows that — on some level — you hate them. You don’t think they should have the same right to live in the neighborhood that you do.

Like everyone else, students need to be thoughtful of their neighbors and make some lifestyle adjustments to fit in.

But by the same token people who aren’t students who choose to live near a college campus need to expect and accept more late-night activity than if they lived in a homogeneous neighborhood of senior citizens.

Arguments over a new apartment building’s height, design and parking are one thing.

But claims it shouldn’t be built because of the age or academic status of the people the developer hopes will live there are not appropriate.

Those claims shouldn’t sway the City Council’s decision about whether to approve the project.

More coverage of the 831 Emerson project

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Bill: It’s the developer, the

    Bill: It's the developer, the City of Evanston, and future renters (many of them NU students) who will benefit most from this hi-rise being built. What is so wrong with high-property-tax paying neighbors wanting to take a hard-bargaining position in order to mitigate its potential impact (traffic, student parties, et cetera) on the quality of life around their homes? 

    It's not a new issue, either. Take note that the following from a Daily Northwestern article on student and community frictions was published in November 2010: 

    “For many of the permanent neighbors, the neighborhood has changed out from under them”–Dean of Students Burgwell Howard.

    “There are more cars parked in the street, there’s more trash being generated, there’s more noise and there’s much more activity in the neighborhood than there was 10 years ago,” Howard said. “For many of the permanent neighbors, the neighborhood has changed out from under them.”

    In light of this history and the continuing issues regarding the neighborhood's quality of life, your statement that "Like everyone else, students need to be thoughtful of their neighbors and make some lifestyle adjustments to fit in" seems oversimplified. I think the residents know a high rise is going to happen at this location no matter what, so they are perfectly justified in making sure it can be done with as little detrimental impact as possible. 

    1. Students as neighbors

      Hi Billyjoe,

      If by "as little detrimental impact as possible" you mean changing the project so it doesn't draw students as tenants, I think you're exhibiting the "hate" that I object to.

      Students already live in large numbers in near-campus neighborhoods. They did when I was an NU student in the late 1960s. And I would imagine they also did decades before that. They have a right to live there if they choose and can afford the rent.

      Attempting to drive them out of the neighborhood or block new construction that might appeal to them comes across to me as a form of bigotry.

      Residents of some parts of Evanston have really serious quality of life concerns — like gunfire in the streets.

      Lesser, but still annoying, quality of life concerns — like noisy student parties — call for an appropriately nuanced response — which does not include trying to drive students out of the neighborhood.

      — Bill

      1. I Like NU Students!

        If I didn't want to live near students, I wouldn't have chosen to live here. I love living next to a world-class university. I love living in a neighborhood full of bright, vibrant young people.

        I've attended several of the 831 Emerson meetings. The one person who braved the vocal opposition by speaking out against student-bashing was quickly booed into silence. 

        The 831 Emerson project has issues that are of appropriate concern to nearby residents, but given our location, the claim that students are a blight on our neighborhood is just fatuous.

    2. In other words…

      === It's the developer, the City of Evanston, and future renters (many of them NU students) who will benefit most from this hi-rise being built. ===

      Transaltion: "I have already personally benefited from my real estate, now I get to exclude others from that benefit. It's about my personal benefit, not others."

      1. Issues not addressed yet ? At least publicly

        There are three things:

        1. Last I heard NU says they won't need this building to be built for students because of the new dorms being or will be built.

        2. Statements have been made the units will be more expensive than similar [sized?] units in other buildings.

        3. Units will be smaller than similar [e.g. 1B in other buildings]. Will students want more expensive and smaller units than they can find elsewhere ?

        IF the building/units are not needed as NU said, will non-NU 'typical' renters want to pay higher prices for smaller [I assume because of study of space students usual want/need] units ? If not there could be a lot of vacancy.

        Even with smaller units, students may still want to have more students in the unit than permitted by city ordinance "under no circumstance can there be more than two people per bedroom" [ordinance has this under "family" so not even brothers or sisters could bump-up this number nor a child in a two parent 1B with child.]

        1. Need for building?

          As we've reported, the developers are confident that — despite NU's move to require all freshmen and sophomores to live on campus — there will be sufficient demand to fill the building with upperclassmen, grad students and recent graduates.

          There's always the possibility they're wrong — but at least they're willing to bet their own money on that belief.

          Given that NU's enrollment is static, if the new building is constructed, presumably some landlords who have older, less desirable but still expensive student rentals will have to adjust to the market, either by cutting their rates, finding non-student tenants, upgrading their properties, or some combination of all three.

          And I suppose some small buildings might get de-converted to return to a prior use as single family homes.

          — Bill

          1. 831 Emerson and Affordable Housing

            Has the developer said yet if he will devote X% [as I recall 10%] of units or pay the fee for the units ?

            Has he said given the cost to him, how much that will mean in additional rent for each of the non-Affordable Housing units or their share of the fee he pays instead ?

            There is 'no free lunch.'  I doubt the developer will eat the costs—no it will be passed on to renters.  Maybe the students and parents will see it as [non-tax deductible] contribution to Evanston residents.

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