Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern


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City Council approves senior housing project

After 28 months of discussion, aldermen unanimously approved Mather LifeWays’ plans to rebuild its senior living housing at The Georgian and Mather Gardens.

“It was a long process, but it was worthwhile,” Ald. Delores Holmes (5th) said. “I hope there were lessons learned that will make the process run smoother in the future.”

The decision, made at an Evanston City Council meeting March 13, came with a series of conditions meant to ease resistance to the construction.

Mather, a not-for-profit organization, hopes to begin building at the vacant Mather Gardens, 1615 Hinman Ave., in 2007 and to finish in 2009, said Sara McVey, director of marketing for Mather.

The new building will then be able to house the residents of The Georgian, 422 Davis St., when construction begins there.

More than 160 people have expressed interest in the new units and about 100 people have already made $1,000 deposits, Mather officials said.

Together the buildings will have 245 independent living residences, 24 assisted living units, 40 long-term care units and a maximum of 249 underground parking spaces. The property also will include two acres of gardens, as well as facilities for swimming, fitness, art and business.

Mather pledged to work to minimize the impact of construction on neighbors and to keep them informed through newsletters.

Other compromises include paying about $1 million each year in real estate taxes instead of about $70,000, which is required of it as a not-for-profit; providing about $15 million to help new and current residents with housing costs; and paying the city $125,000 per year to have an underground tunnel between The Georgian and Mather Gardens.

“We didn’t expect it to be this drawn out,” McVey said.

Mather estimated in 2003 that construction would cost about $125 million. Rising fuel and materials prices, as well as the cost of additional personnel to hold discussions with the city, have raised expenses to about $200 million, McVey said.

Holmes said the time spent considering the development reflects the council’s commitment to hearing from proponents and opponents of the construction.

“No citizens can say they did not have their input,” Holmes said.

Mather LifeWays representatives met more than 50 times with neighbors and community groups during the last two years, McVey said.

Some Evanston residents said at public hearings that the buildings’ bulk and proximity to the curb would disrupt the streets’ atmosphere.

Former First Ward aldermanic candidate Judy Fiske called for the preservation of The Georgian during her campaign. She nominated the building for historic landmark status. The Evanston Preservation Commission recommended the landmark designation, but aldermen rejected the proposal in 2004.

The nearly 90-year-old senior home served as a hotel before Mather bought the property. The company started doing business in Evanston 54 years ago.

McVey said the buildings have outlived their usefulness.

“It’s not a community that allows us to fulfill our mission to create ‘Ways to Age Well,'” she said.

Designed as a hotel, The Georgian is not suitable senior housing because it has many steps, minimal room for communal amenities and difficult-to-access utility controls, McVey said.

“We’re just happy to finally be able to move on,” she said.

Reach Elizabeth Gibson at [email protected].

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City Council approves senior housing project