A seven-unit development of live/work townhouses is slated to break ground next month on the site of the former Drummer Drapery shop at the northeast corner of Lake Street and Ashland Avenue. The four-story homes, each to sport a private elevator, twin master bedroom suites and a storefront office, will modernize the B1 business district that was once home to a church and a grocery store in addition to the well-known Evanston window-dresser.
“Evanston has a lot of B1 zones located at intersections with residential areas surrounding them,” said Ellen Galland, a local architect who, along with her associate Marian Tweedie, designed the project in her own B1 office just blocks away from the site. “Historically, they’ve provided local services for neighborhood residents, and increasingly they are sought after for small-business uses.”
Co-developer Tom Engel, a principal of Walter Talley Land Management Company, said the 400 square-foot offices on the ground floor would be ideal for accountants, realtors and graphic designers. The owners can either use the office themselves, he said, or lease the space.
The project, dubbed “Homes That Work,” will consist of two structures, one of three units facing south on Lake Street and a four-unit block on Ashland Avenue. Each 3,000 square-foot home will have an office, a two-car garage, three bedrooms and four-plus baths, said co-developer John Cunningham, with asking prices up to $895,000.
“We want to build in an intelligent and sensible way,” said Mr. Cunningham, who started Walter Talley in 2000 with Mr. Engel. He said as developers they have to make choices that impact the quality of the product and the footprint it leaves on the surrounding area. For this project, they opted for geothermal heating to eliminate the use of freon and reduce heating costs. The floors will be made from reclaimed wood, and they plan to use a strip of land next to the alley along the north side of the property for garden plots. The site will have a private drive connecting the garages to reduce the development’s impact on parking in the streets, said Mr. Cunningham.
Along with adding convenience and aesthetic interest to the area, Ms. Galland said, the B1 zoning found in many south Evanston neighborhoods promotes what the prominent sociologist Jane Jacobs termed “eyes on the street.” In the early 1960s, Ms. Jacobs argued that a healthy, safe neighborhood depends on the consistent presence of people who have a vested interest in the area. The B1 districts ensure there are people in the neighborhood at all times – business owners during the day and homeowners at night, Ms. Galland said. She said she was unaware of a similar development for a B1 site in the City. “At least not tucked into a neighborhood like this one,” she said.
Mr. Cunningham and Mr. Engel, both longtime Evanston residents, have a number of local projects in their portfolio, including the recently finished rehab of the former warehouse at 1800 Ridge Ave. that had been home to the Vineyard Christian Fellowship, and a vintage rehab of a 21-unit building at Forest Avenue and Lee Street.
Mr. Cunningham said the “Homes That Work” are expected to be completed by fall 2009.