Residents dissatisfied with new Kendall building proposal

Paul Thissen

Smithfield Properties presented tentative plans to develop the former Kendall College property to the Planning and Development Committee on Tuesday, but residents and an alderman say the plans to put between 70 and 79 single-family homes and town houses would overcrowd the neighborhood.

Smithfield principal Robert Buono offered several plans that propose a series of single-family homes lining the borders of the property with a town house complex in the middle. All the plans featured a nearly identical layout but with different historic buildings of Kendall kept intact.

“There are many nuances to the plan that will have to be worked out,” Buono said in his introduction. “I don’t expect to come out of here with a complete agreement.”

Kendall sold its property — which lies between Simpson Street, Colfax Street, Sherman Avenue and Orrington Avenue — to Smithfield in November because of its decision to relocate the campus.

The designs presented Tuesday would create a less dense residential area than the proposal Smithfield introduced earlier in January. It included 117 townhouses.

The new blueprints do not include “stacked” townhouses, or properties where multiple people own homes on different levels of the buildings.

The plans come as a result of resident complaints that the suggested development would ruin the character of the neighborhood and increase traffic problems.

Residents and aldermen, however, remained dissatisfied with the new proposals.

“(These plans) are nowhere near to anything we’d consider,” said Ald. Elizabeth Tisdahl (7th) said. “It’s a negotiation and we clearly have a ways to go.”

The Northeast Evanston Neighborhood Association, arguing on behalf of area residents, declined to make any specific judgements on the matter. Tom Gemmell, a chairman of the association, said the group would solicit detailed community feedback and then respond to the developer. But he did indicate the association’s preferences for the future of the property:

“We like the idea of single-family homes,” Gemmell said. “We’d like you to move in that direction.”

Because the property is currently zoned for university use, the Evanston City Council must rezone the area in order for Smithfield to construct anything.

Gemmell said area residents feel the land should be zoned so that only single-family homes can be built, but all the plans Buono have proposed would require the city to rezone for significantly more dense development.

In addition, the neighborhood association and Tisdahl both expressed an interest in preserving a higher percentage of undeveloped natural area.

“You’ve got to come up with a way to create more green space,” Tisdahl said in the meeting.

The single-family homes would be two-and-a-half stories tall but would only be 5 feet from the next house. The properties are expected to sell for $500,000 to $600,000.

According to the developers, they primarily expect professional adults with few or no children to purchase most of the units. In some of the plans, the historic administrative building of Kendall would be kept intact but would be used as condominiums.

Access to the units would come from private roads within the development and would meet either Orrington or Sherman.