Apartment complex development given unanimous approval by city committee

Mark Duanmu, Reporter

The city’s design and project review committee gave unanimous approval Wednesday to an apartment complex aimed at providing off-campus housing options for Northwestern students, under the condition that the building’s height be shortened.

The building, to be located at 831 Emerson St., was approved despite community concerns that the complex would cause disruption in the area. Further discussion of the building will now take place in the city’s planning and development committee where, if passed, it will then move to City Council.

Currently, the building’s proposed location, situated just west of Sherman Avenue on Emerson, is home to a 7-Eleven convenience store and Lake City Cleaners.

The building will be constructed by bKL Architecture, and developed by a joint venture between CA Ventures and Focus Development.

Thomas Kerwin, the founder and principal of bKL Architecture, gave a slideshow presentation demonstrating the features of the potential building. He emphasized the importance of the building having a modern design, which will help attract students, but also fitting into the surrounding area’s architectural makeup, which is dominated by older low-rise buildings and houses.

Kerwin also showed various diagrams displaying the building’s shadow effects on nearby buildings to address civilian concerns about the height of the building. He said the shadows would affect almost none of the surrounding neighbors.

Tim Anderson, a representative for both developers, pointed out CA’s and Focus’ experience in developing similar projects in Evanston, such as 1717 Ridge Ave., and other complexes in communities with nearby universities.

Some committee members expressed concerns with the design and architecture of the building.

“I worry that this building will be dated as soon as it’s built,” said Damir Latinovic, Evanston’s planning and zoning administrator. He compared the building’s look to office buildings built in the 1960s and 1970s.

Ald. Judy Fiske (1st), who lives on Sherman Avenue, said she was concerned about the building’s presence in a largely low-rise neighborhood, the loss of local business and whether there is sufficient demand for the building.

“All the buildings built on Sherman Avenue in the last 40 years have been low-rise,” Fiske said. “This building really is a downtown development. It’s sort of a wall.”

Anderson pointed out various mid-rise buildings already in the area, which he said would help the building seem less out of place.

“The 10 and 11 story buildings around (the project), especially 1900 Sherman Ave. which would be right adjacent to this project, create a context for this building,” Anderson said.

Fiske also voiced concerns about the loss of local business, especially Lake City Cleaners, which she said would be forced out of their current location.

“Lake City Cleaners, if this is built, will move out of Evanston,” she said. “They employ 35 people. We are struggling to find good jobs for Evanston residents. I think losing 35 jobs is a real difficulty for us, despite how many jobs the developers would create.”

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