Progress remains stalled on 831 Emerson development


Daily file photo by Daniel Tian

Ald. Judy Fiske (1st) attends a council meeting. Fiske has previously opposed construction of 831 Emerson, saying that she would rather preserve smaller communities.

Syd Stone, Assistant City Editor

Evanston residents and officials discussed the proposed planned development project at 831 Emerson during Monday’s City Council meeting.

The developers of the project, Focus Development, Inc. and CA-Ventures, proposed last week a 9-story mixed-use building with 242 units and a 3,300-square foot commercial space on the ground floor. The plan also includes 174 parking spaces on site including one level of underground parking, according to council documents.

The new building would replace the existing two-story commercial building that houses a 7-Eleven convenience store. However, the existing 7-Eleven is expected to occupy the new commercial space on site.

The proposed ordinance — not yet voted on by City Council — would have granted a special use approval for the project, which was first introduced more than a year ago as a part of a plan to expand the downtown area. The downtown area currently extends from Ridge Avenue east to Hinman Avenue, and from Lake Street north to Emerson Street.

An earlier version of the project proposed a 14-story high-rise primarily targeted at Northwestern students. After significant pushback from Evanston residents, the project was revised.

Members of the community voiced their concern at numerous City Council meetings about the building’s height and its lack of contribution to affordable housing.

Ald. Judy Fiske (1st) echoed this concern at a council meeting last week, saying that she would rather preserve smaller communities than expand the downtown area. The 1st Ward encompasses an area included in the proposed expansion.

Susan Wolin — a resident at the Sherman Garden co-operative apartments near the proposed site on Emerson — said she takes issue with the notion of a “student focused development” because of its potential for noise disturbances and “problems with student behavior.”

Despite revisions to the project that now direct it toward “young professionals” rather than students, Wolin said she still thinks it will attract NU students.

“I would argue that, in effect, the proposed development will end up functioning as a high-end dormitory, attracting affluent students,” she said. “The proposed project is targeting an affluent rental market that is already well served in Evanston.”

Michael Stevens, also a Sherman Garden resident, said he is concerned that his neighborhood will change too drastically if the proposed project is completed.

“Why should we change it to this affluent demographic when there’s already an abundant supply of high-end rentals in Evanston?” he asked during Monday’s council meeting. “It feels as if it is being imposed on the neighborhood.”

Stevens suggested that the council be “proactive” and seek solutions to better suit the existing community in the neighborhood rather than stick with the existing plan.

Officials said discussion would continue at a future City Council meeting.

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