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Evanston seems to be doing very well, if the criterion is the number of buildings under construction and those planned and soon to be built for rental or condominium apartments. Finding exact information is a ponderous task and the fine details not crucial, but in about a year, the City will have added approximately 1,000 units to its housing stock. Discounting the quality of the architecture, the number alone creates significant questions.
One trouble is that many of these units are rental and thereby transient in nature, unlike cooperative buildings, which are, at least by definition, more rooted.
The bigger question is whether the basic structure of Evanston can sustain this sudden impact. Such a boom has implications for schools and businesses. For the latter, the projection is positive as long as the economy sustains a level that fills the apartments. If the economy hits bumps, as it seems to do in cycles, empty units and poor sales will likely have an effect.
As for the schools, projections show the impact on some – for instance, on those already at capacity relative to space – can be serious. State reimbursement usually offsets the dollar impact on schools, but Illinois is in such serious financial straits that education reimbursement is anything but certain.
This writer wonders how carefully the broader impact on the town is considered when each project is approved. He hopes broader thinking is applied. City leaders need to think of alternatives for when and if significant numbers of vacancies hit.
It is not clear whether a City agency or committee – or the City Manager himself – is responsible for looking at the bigger questions and possible future problems.
It would be great to believe that all the implications are being considered, but the process has not been addressed to this writer’s satisfaction. In a vacuum, no committee has the expertise, and the path to the leaders who are thinking through
the future problems is unclear.
Hopefully the “Red Sea leadership” will find a path for the citizens of Evanston, but if not, this writer asks how they can avoid drowning.