Evanston residents dispute potential private student-focused apartment complex


Sam Schumacher/The Daily Northwestern

Community members debate a potential apartment complex near the intersection of Emerson Street and Sherman Avenue. The 14-story high-rise would be the city’s first large-scale private student housing development.

Joanne Lee, Reporter

Evanston residents voiced concerns at a community meeting Tuesday night that a proposed apartment complex aimed at Northwestern students would disturb their quality of life.

“We have experience with people making noise in the middle of the night that will increase,” Evanston resident Regina Henry told The Daily before the meeting. “They’re the only ones out at 3 a.m., being loud and drinking and throwing beer bottles. My neighbors don’t do that.”

About 50 residents gathered at Evanston Public Library for the second neighborhood meeting to discuss the potential 14-story high-rise, located at 831 Emerson St. The complex — proposed to occupy a lot just west of the intersection of Emerson Street and Sherman Avenue — would be Evanston’s first large-scale private housing venture geared toward students.

Evanston residents worried that the 287-unit building, decreased by 10 units from the original proposal, would increase traffic and clog the surrounding streets. Issues about the building’s height, potential tax hikes and influx of NU students were also raised.

“It’s such a high-density building,” Evanston resident Susan Wolan, who said she lives in the apartment complex across the street, told The Daily. “It seems more suitable for a downtown area, so I don’t think it would work well in this neighborhood.”

However, developers said at the meeting the building will largely attract upperclassmen and graduates and will be strictly managed by onsite staff. Developers also said details of the plan are not concrete.

“This is … a lengthy process and there’s going to be more changes,” said Justin Pelej, the director of development at Focus Development, the residential builder working on the project.

The construction of the building would mean the displacement of a local business, Lake City Cleaners. For the 35 employees who are Evanston residents, it would also mean a possible loss of their jobs.

“We would have to relocate to a different place, and we may not offer them all jobs,” Janice Seyedin, the owner of Lake City Cleaners, told The Daily.

Despite the developer’s consolation that the building would be “pedestrian-friendly,” residents complained that student bicyclists who they said disobey traffic laws would only increase with this new student-friendly building, potentially endangering both drivers and pedestrians.

“We’re in favor of more housing for students, but we would like for the University to build the housing in the University area,” Wolan said. “We’re worried we might be facing a high-rise slum.”

Concerns about the building’s future were raised in light of the incoming NU policy — which goes into effect Fall 2017 — requiring students to live on-campus their freshman and sophomore years. With NU’s 10-year plan to build five more residence halls on campus and renovate others, Evanston residents questioned the need for a privately-owned housing complex, claiming the city would be left to deal with an abandoned building.

Developers have submitted the application for the building and are awaiting approval from city officials.

“All in all, it’s going to be absolutely horrible for our neighborhood,” Henry told The Daily.

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