Rendering of 1620 Central St. from Myefski Architects in City of Evanston packet

No parking seems to be okay with City Council these days, as aldermen on April 13 gave the go-ahead to a project at 1571 Maple Ave. and warmly greeted a project at 1620 Central St.

1571 Maple Ave.

The proposed project at 1571 Maple Ave. is a 12-story, 101-unit apartment building with one-, two- and three-bedroom units and 12 on-site parking spaces. Under the City’s zoning code, 143 parking spaces would be required; the developer will rent 101 spaces in the Maple Avenue Garage, about three-and-one half blocks away. The aggregate rental cost will be $103,000 per year. Of the 12 on-site parking spaces, two would be reserved for car-share vehicles, and 10 would be open to free public parking from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The City says 863 spaces in the Maple Avenue garage are leased and that the average daily occupancy is about 700 spaces.

Parking concerns, if there were any on the part of the Council, appeared to have been trumped by a donation of $400,000 by the developer, 1571 Maple Avenue, to the City’s affordable housing fund.

An as-yet unnamed “nonprofit affordable housing developer” will acquire the units, rehab them as necessary, hold them “in perpetuity” and rent them to income-eligible households. The developer will also dedicate two of the one-bedroom units as affordable for households earning 100% of the area median income.

Other public benefits promised by the developer include making a one-time Divvy bike sponsorship contribution of $56,000; employing at least five Evanston residents; incorporating commercial space along Davis Street; attaining LEED Silver certification; expanding and improving the sidewalk along Elmwood Avenue; installing a parking lot and one free electric charging station there; installing green roofs on the project, public bike-parking facilities near the Davis/Elmwood intersection, and a “living green wall” along the Metra embankment.

Many residents opposed the project, some because of the lack of adequate parking, others because the new building would spoil their view. Some residents in the building at 1570 Elmwood Ave. said they had been told by City officials that no one would build on the then-empty lot; others said their realtors had essentially made the same promise. Others said they felt that the Maple Avenue garage should be reserved for public, rather than private, parking.

The vote was 6-1, with Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, voting against the project. Second Ward Alderman Peter Braithwaite and Third Ward Alderman Melissa Wynne were absent.

‘I’m going to vote against it,” said Ald. Fiske. I have a concern that parking is so far from the site.”

Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, said, “I don’t want the rest of the world to get the idea that this is a new order of business.” He said he would vote for the project because the parking solution “minimizes the effect on adjacent properties” and because “the developer has come to us with a pretty extraordinary affordable housing program.”

1620 Central St.

Farther north, the 1620 Central St. project was met with smiles and kudos to architect John Myefski for his handling of neighbors’ concerns about a proposed four-story, 47-unit apartment project. The project proposes 54 parking spaces, all underground; the zoning code requires 72 spaces.  There would be 11 one-bedroom units, 28 two-bedroom units and 8 three-bedroom units. Two of the one-bedroom units would be dedicated as affordable for households at or below 100% of the area median income. The developer also would dedicate a 15-foot wide access easement to the property owners of single-family residences to the east.

Unlike the situation with 1571 Maple Ave. project, there is no handy public garage in which to rent parking spaces. Further, the majority of the streets around the project have parking restrictions, including residential permits, for which the apartment residents would be ineligible.

“There couldn’t be a better location between two modes of transportation [the Metra and the CTA] for a transportation-oriented project,” Mr. Myefski said. He added that he and his company had held 24 community meetings before meeting with the Plan Commission and said 12 or more major changes had evolved through that process.

“We have a solution that most neighbors agree to,” he said.

Carl Bova, an engineer by profession, who said he lives “1,059 feet from the development,” said he feels the City’s current parking regulations are “in excess of what is needed.” He added, though, that he felt more parking spaces are needed for this project.

Mr. Myefski described public benefits in addition to the affordable units and the easement: preserving an elm tree in the southwest corner of the property; providing a Divvy bike-share membership for each unit for three years; providing a free public transit pass for each unit for one year; improving the streetscape along Central Street; installing two free electric charging stations;  and replacing the wood fence that belongs to the townhome association; arranging for two new car-sharing spaces along Central Street; burying the overhead utility lines in the alley; installing a green roof on a portion of the underground parking garage; and attaining, at a minimum, silver LEED certification. 

Sixth Ward Alderman Mark Tendam said, “I think your process in getting to this point has been admirable.”

Alderman Jane Grover, 7th Ward, said, “Despite what feels like a lot of pushing and pulling, you have a good building. For me it was a learning process on how to do it right. Almost a year ago we began these discussions. … At least if residents are not happy, they’re not hurt.” “There couldn’t be a better location between two modes of transportation [the Metra and the CTA] for a transportation-oriented project,” Mr. Myefski said. He added that he and his company had held 24 community meetings before meeting with the Plan Commission and said 12 or more major changes had evolved through that process.

“We have a solution that most neighbors agree to,” he said.

Carl Bova, an engineer by profession, who said he lives “1,059 feet from the development,” said he feels the City’s current parking regulations are “in excess of what is needed.” He added, though, that he felt more parking spaces are needed for this project.

Mr. Myefski described public benefits in addition to the affordable units and the easement: preserving an elm tree in the southwest corner of the property; providing a Divvy bike-share membership for each unit for three years; providing a free public transit pass for each unit for one year; improving the streetscape along Central Street; installing two free electric charging stations;  and replacing the wood fence that belongs to the townhome association; arranging for two new car-sharing spaces along Central Street; burying the overhead utility lines in the alley; installing a green roof on a portion of the underground parking garage; and attaining, at a minimum, silver LEED certification. 

Sixth Ward Alderman Mark Tendam said, “I think your process in getting to this point has been admirable.”

Alderman Jane Grover, 7th Ward, said, “Despite what feels like a lot of pushing and pulling, you have a good building. For me it was a learning process on how to do it right. Almost a year ago we began these discussions. … At least if residents are not happy, they’re not hurt.”