About two dozen people attended Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl’s Town Hall meeting on May 26, held in the Parasol Room of the Morton Civic Center.

After presentations on crime and on jobs for Evanston youth, the Mayor answered questions from the audience about the Harley Clarke mansion, 2603 Sheridan Road; affordable housing; and the Robert Crown Community Center, 1701 Main St.

“I don’t know that we need a mansion on the lake, but it would be nice,” Mayor Tisdahl said in answer to a question from resident Linda Damashak. “If you want me to pledge millions of dollars to it, I don’t see that.” She said she would prefer that money be spent on revamping or replacing the Robert Crown Center. She said singer Beyoncé and rapper Jay Z are friends of Olympic skater Shani Davis, and she thinks they might contribute money for Robert Crown.

Jane Wickenkamp, a member of the City’s Housing Task Force, said, “It seems like we’ve lost a lot of affordable housing. What happens to people who have lived here all their lies and have to leave?”

Mayor Tisdahl referred to the $18.1 million Neighborhood Stabilization Program grant in 2010, under which 100 abandoned and foreclosed homes, both single-family and condominiums, were rehabbed as affordable units.

“At the same time, we lost African American population. It’s extremely difficult,” Mayor Tisdahl said, adding she had advocated for apartment complexes rather than condominium developments but conceded that the majority of those are luxury rather than affordable units. She mentioned the Geometry in Construction class at Evanston Township High School, in which students and community volunteers build a house that is moved to a residential location and sold at an affordable price.  She added the City is “looking at a plot of land where we might put tiny houses.”

Resident and local activist Jeff Smith suggested that the City approach affordability in a manner similar to how the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency approaches land stewardship by requiring an environmental impact statement. He said he would like to see a policy that analyzes large apartment or condominium proposals in terms of overall City affordability.

While the City looks at each proposal in terms of affordability, Mayor Tisdahl said, “we’re not looking overall.”

The meeting lasted less than an hour.

Mary Gavin

Mary Gavin is the founder of the Evanston RoundTable. After 23 years as its publisher and manager, she helped transition the RoundTable to nonprofit status in 2021. She continues to write, edit, mentor...