5th Ward residents express concern over future development in ward

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Andres Correa/Daily Senior Staffer

Evanston residents attend 5th Ward community meeting. Residents discussed future development in the ward.

Andres Correa, Assistant City Editor

The property owner and realtor broker of an Emerson Street and Jackson Street property attended the 5th Ward meeting Wednesday to receive community input from residents after a developer scrapped plans for a proposed development last month.

Before receiving feedback from residents, Victoria Kathrein, the property’s owner, and Rich Aronson, Kathrein’s realtor broker, discussed the outcome of what was supposed to be a new development on the property.

She said the developer, Domanus Development, approached her to build a 24-unit, five-story building on Emerson Street and a slightly smaller structure of 20 units on Jackson Street. However, Kathrein said the developer attempted to purchase other surrounding properties to increase the project to a 102-unit project behind her back.

She said she found out about the plan after calling the city to check up on the development. She said the development company only had preliminary drawings and nothing else.

When the developer presented the project to the 5th Ward, she said she had no idea what he was presenting. Additionally, one of the main tenets of the contract she signed with the developer required Kathrein to clear her properties and in turn forced tenants to move out.

“I would have never signed a contract with someone who had these kinds of intentions and was going to bring something to the neighborhood that would not work and we would not accept,” Kathrein said.

She said the properties are back on the market and are being sold separately.

Aronson said potential buyers came to the meeting to receive community input so they could market it to potential developers.

“I will sift through the potential developers to make clear that we will not accept and the neighborhood will not accept something beyond the information you give us,” Aronson told residents at the meeting.

Residents demands included no development over three stories, low population density and affordable housing. Residents were also concerned with traffic congestion and getting a developer who wants to waive fee-in-lieu payments to substitute for affordable units.

Attendees also voiced concern over residents who were displaced from their homes before the development failed.

Amy Masters, a 5th Ward resident, said she lives directly behind the parcels being sold. She said she she would have been impacted by the proposed development.

“We don’t want the density,” she said. “We want the neighborhoods. We moved here because we didn’t want Chicago, so I think the neighborhood has more power than they think they have.”

Masters said developments with high density focus on making money for developers and not improving neighborhoods or quality of life for residents.

Christopher Gotschall, a 5th Ward resident, said he was glad the property owner came to discuss the development but he said it was too late.

“I don’t feel terribly sorry for her signing a bad contract,” he said. “She should have thought about those people she was going to kick out of the building before she signed that contract.”

He said the impending sale of the building means it is important for the community to push for rezoning so no one can develop a building more than three stories high. He said rezoning would allow residents to avoid the same problem of developers proposing high buildings.

Despite the residents’ concerns, Ald. Robin Rue Simmons (5th) said the ward is not against development.

“We are pro-development, we have a vision for improvement and nice housing stock and contemporary amenities and all of the luxuries that are happening at other areas of Evanston,” Simmons said.

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