Plan Commission recommends approval of Howard Street map amendment


Emma Edmund

Commissioner Carol Goddard at Wednesday’s Plan Commission meeting. She voted, along with every other member, to recommend City Council approve the Howard Street rezoning.

Emma Edmund, Assistant City Editor

Members of the Plan Commission recommended City Council approve a Howard Street map amendment to allow residential buildings in the area.

The amendment, which affects 951-1125 Howard St., between Barton Avenue and Ridge Avenue, would rezone those properties from a commercial district to a business district. This change would allow for mixed-use buildings with residential units.

Residential units are not currently allowed in the commercial district.

City documents state residents prefer to live near or within commercial areas, and commercial areas with residential units that have above-ground floor retailers tend to be healthier due to regular traffic among those businesses.

The current zoning typically encourages “commercial strips and shopping centers, characterized by large parking spaces and multiple tenants,” according to city documents.

“It sounds like (commercial districts) are for shopping districts, shopping malls,” said commissioner Jennifer Draper at Wednesday’s meeting. “I would agree that this seems like it makes sense to change it over here.”

City documents show that the proposed change supports pedestrian-oriented shopping areas already found throughout Evanston at some intersections and near some mass transit facilities. The documents also state that this type of zoning is mostly neighborhood-oriented, but can also support specialty stores that serve a larger market.

The city has also received inquiries about adding mixed-use buildings with residential units to the portion of Howard Street subject to rezoning. One such proposal is an expansion of the Council for Jewish Elderly facility at 1015 Howard St. The proposal includes “a new 4-story primarily affordable multiple-family residence with 60 dwelling units.”

Commission members agreed the proposed amendment satisfied all of the amendment standards. Those include making sure the amendment supports the goals set forth in the city’s Comprehensive General Plan.

The Comprehensive General Plan sets forth a number of objectives for the commission to consider, including promoting both the growth and redevelopment of Evanston’s business, industrial and commercial areas, according to city documents. The plan also calls for the city to recognize neighborhood business districts’ role in Evanston’s overall economy, as well as the city’s identity.

Particularly, the plan asks for the proposed rezoning to promote pedestrian-oriented retail activity.

Commissioners also agreed the proposed change is compatible with the existing developments in the area.

“We might even say it’s more appropriate,” said chair Colby Lewis.

Even with the change, maximum building height will not increase, and minimum rear yard setback adjacent to a residential district does not decrease.

The plan should support the “revitalization of the Howard St. corridor” with collaboration between the cities of Evanston and Chicago, merchants and citizens, according to city documents.

“This is an excellent idea,” said commissioner Carol Goddard. “Evanston has made such great strides in recent years, and this is just natural outflow.”

The amendment has already been filed with applicable procedural and public notice requirements.

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