Plan Commission recommends approval of apartment complex despite public concerns


(Colin Boyle/Daily Senior Staffer)

Johnny Carlson presents his firm’s plan for a development at 1727 Oak Ave. to the Plan Commission. Commissioners voted 6-1 to approve the plan with modifications.

Catherine Henderson, Assistant City Editor

The Evanston Plan Commission listened to almost an hour of public comment against the proposed “active adult” rental development at 1727 Oak Ave. but continued to recommend approval of the site to the city’s Economic Development Committee, under the condition that the petitioner modify construction plans.

During a Wednesday meeting at the Lorraine H. Morton Civic Center, commissioners heard from the site’s developer, Trammell Crow Company, and their partners, followed by public comment. The commission voted 6-1 to approve the site with changes. About 100 residents attended the meeting.

Allan Bergman spoke at the meeting as an owner of a unit at the Sienna Court Condominium Association off Oak Avenue, where he said his daughter lives.

“This is why people are apathetic about voting and participating in public policy,” Bergman told The Daily after the meeting. “(The commissioners) blew everybody off here tonight. This was a done deal.”

The proposed 17-story development would include 169 units, a dog park, a pool and 139 parking spots. Johnny Carlson, principal of the midwest business unit for Trammell Crow Company, said all apartments would have at least one tenant age 55 or older. He added his firm had brought on an Americans with Disabilities Act consultant.

“We as Trammell Crow … bring on an ADA consultant to look at all the means and methods, to look forward and at lessons learned on past projects,” Carlson said. “Prior to a lot of the concerns that we’ve heard from neighbors at public comment, we had (a consultant) on our staff.”

Additionally, Carlson and his associates said they had changed some elements of their plan to adhere to city codes.

Bergman said he was concerned about accessible parking and population density in the neighborhood, but felt commissioners had not listened to him and other speakers.

He emphasized that the senior population needs accessible parking. If the developers intend to create a space for people to age, Bergman said they must account for the fact that caregivers often live outside of Evanston and need to find parking in the already filled neighborhood.

Other commenters said Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church across the street from the proposed development had not remained in the loop about the project. Citizens raised concerns that the apartment building would make it difficult for congregants to park near the church on Sundays.

Nonetheless, commissioners voted to support the measure. Commission chair Colby Lewis said it was an “appropriate use” of the site.

After commissioners voted on the proposal, Ald. Peter Braithwaite (2nd) spoke with the attendees, thanking them for their participation. He said he does not usually come to plan meetings, but he recognized the significance of this development to his ward.

“Obviously whenever you have a development in town it stirs a lot of emotion and concern,” Braithwaite said. “I wanted to thank everyone … for your continued patience in walking through this process. As well, I’d like to offer an apology to the members of Mount Zion Church if you felt that you’ve been excluded from this process.”

Braithwaite said he will hold a public meeting before the issue comes before the development committee, location and date to be determined.

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