Residents Consider Future Development

Nomaan Merchant

By Nomaan MerchantThe Daily Northwestern

West side residents and city officials discussed Monday night the newest version of a blueprint for future development in the area.

More than 50 residents filled a cafeteria at Evanston Township High School, 1600 Dodge Ave., to view the proposal. Much of the area surrounding ETHS falls within a Tax Increment Financing district, which allows the city to use future increases in property tax revenues for certain redevelopment projects.

Many residents expressed concern about the plan, which future developers will have to follow if it is approved by the City Council.

Much of the west side, especially Church Street and Dodge, has remained unused or underdeveloped for decades.

The creation of the TIF district in September 2005 sparked the interest of many developers. But to ensure community members had a say in future construction, the Evanston City Council passed a moratorium on development within the TIF district and hired two consulting firms to work on creating the blueprint.

Developers from JJR Co., which is responsible for most of the area within the TIF district south of Church Street, including its intersection with Dodge Avenue, have proposed an ambitious plan.

Part of the proposed blueprint calls for two four-story, mixed-use buildings and one three-story condominium building to be built at the intersection of Church and Dodge.

The sidewalks at the corner would be extended outward to create more space for pedestrians.

On Dodge, consultants suggested adding a 3-foot-wide median facing the high school, as well as a drop-off zone on the school’s side of the street.

The other major change to the area would occur at the viaduct for the defunct Mayfair Railroad. Now privately owned, the viaduct would be demolished and converted into a walkway with sculptures and plants.

“This plan is something that’s representative of what could be,” said Brad Winick, a JJR consultant.

Many people at the meeting were critical of several aspects of the proposal, especially of the proposed median on Dodge and the townhomes planned around the viaduct.

Others had concerns about the environmental safety of the land east of Dodge, which houses a waste transfer facility. One resident joked the city should make the land a park “so that it glows at night.”

This was the final meeting for residents to voice their opinion on JJR’s portion of the west side TIF district blueprint. Farr Associates, the firm responsible for the northern part of the TIF district, will hold a community meeting on Oct. 25.

Both firms will present their proposals to the city’s Plan Commission on Nov. 8.

Reach Nomaan Merchant at [email protected]