City Council approves two ordinances impacting housing opportunity and development


Daily file photo by Colin Boyle

After tabling the two motions last meeting, City Council approved two ordinances that will constitute a plan to provide a new affordable housing development in the 5th Ward.

Aria Wozniak, Senior Staffer

City Council passed two ordinances Monday night that constitute the first step in establishing a new mixed-use, affordable housing building in the 5th Ward.

Council first voted in favor of an ordinance to authorize a special land use permit for Mt. Pisgah Ministry, Inc. on Church Street. The ministry will move to the corner at 1801-1805 Church St. so the Housing Opportunity Development Corporation can move into the ministry’s space. HODC plans to build affordable housing where the ministry currently sits.

Evanston Community Development Director Sarah Flax said the next step is looking at land swap actions between the religious institution and Housing Opportunity Development Corporation since the ordinance has been passed.

“The equivalent city land will be moved to the west and the church’s square footage will be moved to the east,” Flax said. “This accomplishes putting the housing in the middle of the block … and allowing an iconic building on the corner.”

The second ordinance council passed allows for the redevelopment of the current Ministry plot by the Corporation into a new four-story mixed-use building at 1811-1815 Church St. 

Resident Carlis Sutton said he had concerns about the Land Use Commission approving the relocation of the church, which is a designated landmark. 

“These ordinances are problematic and effectively denied stakeholders a voice in the determining of what is best for their community,” Sutton said.

Ald. Bobby Burns (5th) addressed residents’ concerns over the two ordinances –– both of which concern his ward. He said both ordinances were proposed and put in motion before his time in office in 2021. He has held open meetings for discussion on the issue, he added.

“Even though we disagree, I believe in the public process,” Burns said. “I take notes. It is very important that I track all of the issues that people have … I’ll look into it.”

Burns said residents are primarily concerned about the height of the new building, the logistics of new on-site property management and the incorporation of retail spaces. 

At the last council meeting, both motions had been tabled for city staff and HODC to work out a plan that increases the ground floor retail space. 

Burns helped make an amendment to shorten the building’s height, approved an on-site property manager and increased retail space from 1,200 to 2,250 square feet.

Ald. Clare Kelly (1st), the only councilmember who voted against either motion, said she could not support either action until she sees safe living spaces at the Claridge Apartments, another building managed by HDOC. 

The apartments were investigated in March after Evanston police found a deceased man in a state of decomposition. He had been there for several days after dying of natural causes.

Kelly said she was asked by residents in the 5th Ward to help them carefully review actions before approving further developments. 

“He’s acknowledged it’s been a problem, (but) that means nothing, councilmember Burns,” Kelly said. “So do something!”

After spending two hours in the Claridge Apartment building, Kelly said she left in tears. She talked to residents about the horrors of the living conditions.  

However some residents, including Robert Harris, said they have confidence in the project managers. 

“I believe that this project will look amazing,” Harris said. “I believe that HDOC (is) doing important work not just to make a profit (but) to treat people with respect and to have affordable housing for them.” 

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Twitter: @ari_wozz

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