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Aldermen move contentious Sherman Avenue apartment proposal to Council discussion

Ald.+Melissa+Wynne+%283rd%29+at+Monday%E2%80%99s+Planning+and+Development+Committee+meeting.+After+hours+of+deliberation%2C+aldermen+narrowly+approved+Albion+Residential%E2%80%99s+construction+proposal+for+introduction+at+City+Council.++
Ald. Melissa Wynne (3rd) at Monday’s Planning and Development Committee meeting. After hours of deliberation, aldermen narrowly approved Albion Residential’s construction proposal for introduction at City Council.

Ald. Melissa Wynne (3rd) at Monday’s Planning and Development Committee meeting. After hours of deliberation, aldermen narrowly approved Albion Residential’s construction proposal for introduction at City Council.

Katie Pach/Daily Senior Staffer

Katie Pach/Daily Senior Staffer

Ald. Melissa Wynne (3rd) at Monday’s Planning and Development Committee meeting. After hours of deliberation, aldermen narrowly approved Albion Residential’s construction proposal for introduction at City Council.

Ryan Wangman, Development and Recruitment Editor

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After hours of deliberation, aldermen at a Planning and Development Committee meeting narrowly approved Albion Residential’s construction proposal for introduction at City Council.

At the meeting, aldermen were split 4-3 over the controversial plan to build a 15-story apartment tower on Sherman Avenue. Those in favor cited the need for more community living spaces and engagement with developers to increase potential public benefits.

Ald. Judy Fiske (1st), Ald. Melissa Wynne (3rd) and Ald. Eleanor Revelle (7th) voted against the proposal.

Ald. Donald Wilson (4th) said while he understands the plan isn’t perfect, the city needs places for people to live, and the apartment tower would satisfy that need. He said alternative uses for the space –– including restaurants, microbreweries and smaller scale housing –– are not what the city needs, and that other housing options would be “unbelievably non-affordable.”

“We have to be honest with each other and we have to be honest as a community,” Wilson said. “If the affordable housing is a priority, if diversity is a priority and if breaking through some of these segregation barriers are a priority, we have to start doing things differently.”

The proposal, revised to accommodate concerns raised by aldermen and citizens at the Oct. 9 City Council meeting, would add 273 residential units, 6,800 square feet of commercial space and 200 parking spots to the Evanston community. It would be erected on the lot currently occupied by Tommy Nevin’s Pub and Prairie Moon restaurant.

Ald. Robin Rue Simmons (5th) said the project has a “moving target” with constantly changing questions regarding aspects of the proposed tower, including its aesthetics and zoning. She said it was important to recognize that no singular plan is going to solve the city’s affordable housing problem.

“No one is being displaced,” Rue Simmons said. “There is an opportunity for increased housing and I think that we should focus on what’s real.”

Still, other aldermen voiced concerns about the potential development.

Fiske said she is not convinced the city needs more rental residential buildings in the downtown area, and stressed the “incredible” economic value of Evanston’s current character and walkability. She said the council should take a serious look at the allowances they make for new developments.

She added that there could be a building that better fits the current downtown landscape and still achieves developer’s goals.

“Our downtown is precious, it’s so small and we need to plan for it,” Fiske said. “So let’s all work together on this, let’s do something beautiful and let’s move forward.”

While Wynne said the project was compelling, she said she could not support the building in its current location. She said aldermen cannot continue to allow “piecemeal development,” and that they needed to have and follow a development plan.

She added that the decision on the proposed apartment tower will send a message about community values in Evanston.

“If you’ve only lived here six months, you’re an Evanstonian,” Wynne said. “If you were born and raised here and have had three generations of family here, you’re an Evanstonian. We welcome everyone who wants to come and live here, and there are a lot of people who come to live here because of what we are.”

The plan will next be discussed at the Nov. 13 meeting of the City Council.

Email: ryanw@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @ryanwangman

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