Rendering of the proposed building looking west on Emerson Street.

Developers Focus Development, Inc. and CA-Ventures  have submitted an application to construct a multi-level apartment building at 831 Emerson St. As proposed, the west portion of the building which faces the CTA tracks will be 14 stories; the middle portion, 12 stories; and the eastern portion, 9 stories. Portions of the property facing Emerson Street will be landscaped.

The proposed building will contain a total of 287 residential units, with 163 studio or one-bedroom units, 76 two-bedroom units, and 58 three-bedroom units. Representatives of the developers said at a meeting with neighbors on Nov. 3, the building is designed to attract upper classmen students, graduate students and young professionals. The building will have commercial space on the ground floor, which is expected to be occupied by the existing 7-eleven convenience store.

The developers plan to include 143 parking spaces on site; an underground parking facility would house 103 of those spaces. Since the building is geared toward students who often do not have cars, the developers say the parking provided onsite will be adequate to accommodate the needs of all residents in the building. As a backup, they propose to lease additional parking spaces at the City’s Maple Avenue parking garage. Residents in the building will not be entitled to obtain residential parking spaces.

Developers said the property taxes on the new building would be about $1 million a year, compared to $134,000 on the current buildings.

At the Nov. 3 meeting, Damir Latinovic, zoning administrator for the City, said the developers are asking for five “allowances.” A key one is building height. At its highest point, the building is 145 feet. The zoning code allows a maximum of 97 feet. Another is that the proposed building contains 287 units; the code allows up to 170.

The height of the building was a sticking point for many of the neighbors.  “A 14 story building in that location seems out of place,” said one neighbor. The developers responded that the highest point of the building would face the CTA tracks, and it would be tapered to 9 stories on the east where a neighboring building is about that height. They pointed out that the new E2 complex just south of Emerson Street was 14 stories.

Neighbors, though, responded that Emerson Street was a dividing line between the downtown district and a neighborhood district. They opposed creating a precedent. Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st ward, said, “I don’t want to blur that line.”

Neighbors raised other concerns regarding the adequacy of parking, increased traffic, the number of occupants per unit, security at the building, whether the building would provide affordable housing, the number of jobs lost if the cleaner on the site were closed, and other issues.

The application is still in its early stages. The proposal still needs to be reviewed by the Plan Commission, then by Planning and Development Committee of City Council, and then approved by City Council. “There’s a lot of public hearings after this one,” said Mark Muenzer, community development director for the City. The Plan Commission is “tentatively” scheduled to consider the project on Dec. 9, he said.

Larry Gavin was a co-founder of the Evanston RoundTable in 1998 and assisted in its conversion to a non-profit in 2021. He has received many journalism awards for his articles on education, housing and...