Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern


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City Council approves Church Street affordable housing development

The+swap+will+result+in+Mt.+Pisgah%2C+which+qualifies+as+an+iconic+building%2C+being+located+on+the+corner%2C+with+the+HODC+development+being+built+on+the+land+currently+occupied+by+the+church.
Daily file photo by Jacob Wendler
The swap will result in Mt. Pisgah, which qualifies as an iconic building, being located on the corner, with the HODC development being built on the land currently occupied by the church.

City council voted 6-2 Monday night to approve a proposed affordable housing development on Church Street. The two council votes were the final hurdle in the controversial development’s more than two-year-long approval process.

The planned four-story mixed-use building is set to have ground-floor retail space, on-site parking and 33 units of affordable housing units. While the city originally intended for the development to have 44 units, the Planning and Development Committee reduced the number in March in response to criticism about the project’s density.

At the heart of the proposal is a complex land swap in which the city will sell land it currently owns on the corner of Darrow Avenue and Church Street to local church Mt. Pisgah Ministry for $1 in exchange for the church’s adjacent lot on Church Street. The city will then sell the inner lot to Housing Opportunity Development Corporation.

The swap will result in Mt. Pisgah, which qualifies as an iconic building, being located on the corner, with the HODC development being built on the land currently occupied by the church.

The council approved city loans to HODC totaling $4 million for the project at a June 26 meeting but opted to table the property sale and land swap to Monday’s meeting.

Ald. Clare Kelly (1st) attempted to hold the ordinances again until the August City Council meeting but did not receive support from any of her colleagues for her motions to table the votes.

Kelly — who voted against the ordinances along with Ald. Thomas Suffredin (6th) — objected to the land sale because HODC has not agreed to provide round-the-clock security at the Claridge Apartments, another HODC property in Evanston.

“I want to be really crystal clear on this: This is not about affordable housing or not,” Kelly said. “We all support affordable housing. Absolutely. But we also have to care about the very residents, the existing low-income residents in this city, and we have to care about their safety and their well-being.”

The proposal has attracted criticism from residents who are concerned about safety at and around the Claridge Apartments since Evanston police found a deceased man in a state of partial composition there in February.

Jill Calian, who has lived in a home across the street from the Claridge Apartments for 25 years, urged the council to postpone the land transfer until HODC makes additional security guarantees to the Claridge Apartments, echoing Kelly’s concerns.

“This is not about neighbors trying to oust subsidized housing or to limit low-income housing in Evanston, it’s about neighbors caring for neighbors,” Calian said. “I with them having a place to live that offers a basic level of emotional and physical safety, a place that affords some dignity and opportunity for the tenants and a chance for the tenants and their neighbors to have a peaceful enjoyment of living in the neighborhood.”

Resident Carlis Sutton also brought up concerns about soil contamination on the plot being used for the development. 

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency determined in 2003 that the land was safe for commercial use under specific conditions despite possible soil contamination resulting from the land’s use as a gas station in the 1920s and ’30s. The city has also agreed to pursue further excavation of the contaminated soil before construction begins.

“How can you sit there and disregard the safety for the residents of Evanston by placing a unit on contaminated soil, designated so by the EPA?” Sutton said.

The Evanston loans which HODC will receive to complete the project draw from two city funds dedicated to expanding affordable housing. Additionally, funds will come from the city’s American Rescue Plan Act funding and the West Evanston Tax Increment Financing. Some of the funding is also structured to ensure compliance with the development’s affordability requirements, with the HODC only required to pay back some of the loans if it sells the land or fails to remain primarily affordable housing following a designated 30-year period.

Michael Mallory, chief government relations officer at Connections for the Homeless, spoke to the project’s necessity at Monday night’s meeting.

“We are in the midst of a growing housing crisis, and without an expeditious process to develop affordable housing, we are perpetuating unsheltered homelessness,” Mallory said. “We must act now.”

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @jacob_wendler

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City Council approves loans for Church Street affordable housing complex

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