A new developer is hoping to find a viable use for a long-vacant commercial property in the 1500 block of Greenleaf Street in Evanston.

Karla Thomas of Urban Lifestyle Homes LLC will meet with the city’s Design and Appearance Review committee Wednesday seeking approval of a plan to demolish the building at 1513-15 Greenleaf, subdivide the 50-foot-wide lot, and build a single-family home on each new lot.

A rendering of the proposed new homes.

Two years ago another owner — who wanted a one-level home for health reasons — proposed converting the storefronts into a home — but structural issues with the building and other problems stalled those plans.

Thomas, an Evanston resident, is proposing that the new homes, which would each have a two-car garage, share access to an alley that dead ends at the rear property line.

The property, circled in red, is on a block of Greenleaf that is zoned B1.

The 1500 block of Greenleaf has a mix of single family homes, apartment buildings and storefront commercial structures. It once was the center of an active local retail shopping district, but the remaining commercial buildings have generally been converted to residential or office uses.

Despite that, the block is still zoned B1, a neighborhood business district zone that the city’s zoning code says is designed to provide services to neighborhood residents “such as drugstores, cleaners, shoe repair, corner grocery stores and restaurants” — none of which actually exist on the block.

The B1 zone does permit residential uses above the first floor by right, and first floor residential as a special use, and so the new proposal is being considered as a special use request.

The B1 zone also permits building to the lot line, whereas the adjoining R3 two-family residential zone requires a 20-foot front yard setback. The proposed new houses are designed with an eight-foot front yard setback.

The after review by the Design and Appearance Review committee, the proposal also will be reviewed by the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals, with a final decision to be made by the City Council.

Update 4/22/16: Community Development Director Mark Muenzer says that, amid concerns among DAPR committee members about the amount of building lot and impervious surface coverage in the plan, action on the project was postpone for two weeks to give the applicant time to see if they could revise their proposal to address those issues.

The project will again be reviewed by the committee on Wednesday, May 4.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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1 Comment

  1. These houses will really
    These houses will really crowd the pedestrian way so close to the sidewalk at ~ 30 feet high. i hope the neighbors will not agree, and insist on the standard 20 foot setback. Special use should not give away conformity.

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