Evanston’s Land Use Commission voted Wednesday night to approve zoning variations sought by the McGaw YMCA for a planned new building entry on Maple Avenue.

The new space, planned to be built to the property line, would add a new private entrance for the 156 single-room-occupancy men’s residences in the building.

The new entryway is part of a much larger $12.6 million project to completely renovate the residences on the third through fifth floors of the nearly century-old YMCA building at 1000 Grove St.

Richard Lehner.

Architect Richard Lehner told the commission that the configuration of the existing building made the Maple Avenue site the only feasible location for the entrance, which would connect to lower level kitchen and meeting room space for the residents and from there to a existing central elevator to the SRO units upstairs.

Commissioner George Halik asked whether Lehner has considered a flatter massing for the entrance, so it wouldn’t project so far from the existing building.

But Lehner said that would have required covering up more windows of the MetaMedia digital media center for middle-school youth that occupies much of the first floor of the Maple Avenue side of the building.

Monique Parsons.

YMCA President Monique Parsons said the commission’s approval will give new momentum to the fundraising drive for the project.

The Y, she said, has received an initial $1.6 million gift for the work, but still needs to raise $11 million more to be able to break ground.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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