Evanston aldermen Monday approved a master plan for redeveloping the Mayfair industrial corridor on the city’s west side that was over a year in the making.

The 8-0 vote came after an extended discussion of the plan’s likely impact on existing residents.

Carlis Sutton of 1821 Darrow Ave. claimed the plan would lead to gentrification that would displace long-time residents.

But City Planning Director Dennis Marino said, “Most of the new construction is either on vacant land, former railroad right-of-way or industrial property, much of which is vacant. That would not lead to any direct displacement.”

The plan recently was revised to eliminate any impact on existing apartment buildings on Wesley Avenue north of Foster Street, which had originally been proposed as the site for a new cross street, or on two homes on Dodge Avenue just north of Church Street, which originally were proposed for possible inclusion in a multi-story mixed-use redevelopment.

But Mr. Marino conceded that successful development of the area may lead to an increase in the value of neighboring properties which could in turn result in higher tax asessments.

Mr. Sutton said, “My elderly mother is 86 years old. I don’t want her to have to move because someone wants to put in a new street. We’re not opposed to development. We are opposed to being removed from Evanston.”

He proposed that the plan be revised to reduce the number of new housing units permitted.

But Community Development Director James Wolinski said, “If we decrease the density, that’s going to be inviting more gentrifiction — the fewer units, the more they’ll have to sell for.”

“If you decrease density it will possibly turn developers off to this whole plan. They have to get a return on their

funding,” Mr. Wolinski added.

City Planner Susan Guderly said the plan, developed by two city consultants who conducted an extensive set of community meetings, calls for a variety of housing types designed to appeal to people at different income levels, ranging from large apartments buildings and six- and nine-flat apartments through townhomes, duplexes and small-lot detached single-family homes.

Some units should be affordable at market rates, she said, while others could be made affordable through housing assistance programs.

Alderman Steve Bernstein, 4th Ward, said, “I can relate to what Carlis is saying. People currently living there will find their property values enhanced. There has been substantial gentrification going on in this community forever.”

“But you’re not going to ask grandma to take less money for her property so it can stay affordable,” he added, “people are going to want to maximize their gains when they get out.”

Senior citizens on limited incomes also are eligible for the senior citizen tax assessment freeze, which blocks increases in their tax assessment. (More information on that is available from the county assessor’s web site.) 

Mr. Sutton also voiced fears that neighboring residents would have to pay for new streets called for in the master plan. But Mr. Marino said the cost for those likely would be split between the developers and the city, with the city’s portion coming from incremental tax revenue generated by the new developments.

The aldermen also decided to let the building moratorium for the area expire later this month. Zoning changes to implement the new master plan are currently under review by the city’s Plan Commission.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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