Plan Commission approves proposal for new apartment tower


Source: Albion Residential

An artist rendering of the proposed 16-story building on Sherman Avenue. Albion Residential’s proposal passed 4-2 in the Plan Commission on Wednesday.

Edmund Bannister, Reporter

The Evanston Plan Commission recommended Wednesday that City Council approve a proposal from Albion Residential for a new apartment tower on Sherman Avenue.

The vote passed 4-2, but the commission’s recommendation of the 286-unit complex was contingent on an increased number of affordable units, a 16-foot height reduction and 14 additional parking spaces.

The decision followed two hours of public testimony in which many Evanston residents voiced concerns regarding the size of the building, lack of affordable housing units, zoning violations, neighborhood livability and congestion.

Most community leaders were especially worried about rising rents in Evanston and high costs of living, arguing that Albion’s original proposal of creating two affordable housing units and giving a required payment of $2.9 million to the city’s affordable housing fund was insufficient to address the shortage of affordable homes.

“All of us are familiar with President Trump’s border wall down south … but we forget about the other walls that we create in our communities,” Daniel Ruen, pastor of Grace Lutheran Church, said. “We saw during the recent aldermanic and mayoral election, such a strong intention to make sure that we provide affordable housing in Evanston. For those of you who are elected officials, I pray that you’ll harken to this.”

While Albion’s revised proposal fell short of the maximum number of possible affordable units, the developer proposed a 13-unit increase — bringing the total from two to 15 — that represented a nod to public concern.

But this change hasn’t appeased the significant opposition to the project as a whole. Though several residents supported the development, saying during public testimony that it would provide a much-needed economic boost to the area, others said the building was an example of damaging overdevelopment.

A petition, calling for an end to the “Mega-Development on Sherman,” had acquired 1,345 signatures as of Thursday evening.

Barbara White, who lives on nearby Oak Avenue, said the new building would fundamentally change the “character” of her neighborhood.

“It does not fit with (the) spirit of the town that I have loved for almost six decades,” White said. “I am registering my position as totally opposed.”

Seth Weinberger, a former chairman of the Evanston Zoning Board of Appeals, called the project an “obliteration of the zoning code” in a recent letter to the Plan Commission.

Weinberger told The Daily that the block for the proposed development is supposed to be a buffer area between the residential community and downtown, also known as “transitional downtown.”

“They’re doubling what’s allowed, and that shouldn’t happen,” he said.

Albion spokesperson James Prescott disagreed, saying that with allowances for parking they could build a building even taller than the one they are currently proposing. Prescott said many people had a “fundamental misunderstanding” of the zoning process.

“The fact of the matter is that Albion could come into Evanston and as of right, build a building on this site at 185 feet,” Prescott said. “There’s a lot of bad information out there that motivates a lot of opposition.”

City Council’s Planning and Development Committee will address Albion’s plan at its next meeting on Oct. 9.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @ed_bannister