A new proposal by Focus Development  for 831 Emerson St. would be nine stories high, with ground-floor retail and 175 parking spaces. Rendering from City packet for March 8 Plan Commission meeting

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Nearly a year after City Council rejected a proposal by developer Tim Anderson of Focus Development and CA-Ventures for a 14-story, 260-unit building at 831 Emerson St., Mr. Anderson and Focus were scheduled to appear before the City’s Plan Commission on March 8 with a new proposal for the site.

 The new proposal, by CA/Focus Evanston JV LLC, is for a nine-story, 242-unit residential building with 3,330 square feet of commercial space on the ground floor and 175 parking spaces.

The developer is seeking site-development allowances for the number of dwelling units, the building height, the floor-area ratio, the number of parking spaces, setbacks, landscaping buffers and screening, and an open loading berth in the front yard of this U-shaped project.  He is also requesting a zoning change from C1 Commercial and R5-General Residential to C1a Commercial Mixed Use and is asking for a Special Use for a convenience store in the development.

The Project

As proposed, the project would have 242 residential units, where the zoning code allows a maximum of only 121; a building height of 103 feet, where the maximum under the code is 67 feet, and 175 parking spaces, where the code requires 358 spaces. There would be 71 studios, 40 one-bedroom units, 93 two-bedroom units and 38 three-bedroom units.

The prior proposal by Focus and CA-Ventures on this site was for a 12-story (126-foot)) building with 260 dwelling units, 145 on-site parking spaces and 3,300 square feet of commercial space ground floor. City Council rejected the proposal by a 7-2 vote on Feb. 24, 2016.

Two things could have figured in the defeat of that proposal: the fact that the leases on the property would be for “beds” rather than entire units led some to call the project a “private dorm.” Further, there was uncertainty about how the area north of downtown, particularly at and north of Emerson Street, should be developed.

Since then, the developers have changed the shape and size of the project, and the Plan Commission has amended the downtown plan to include plan a for the area immediately to the north, which City Council’s Planning and Development Committee is expected to consider within the next few weeks.

The Context

The nearly one-acre property is located where Benson Avenue ends at Emerson Street. A two-story commercial building and a 57-space parking lot are on the site. Nearby structures are Perlman Apartments, a multiple-family senior residential building owned by the Cook County Housing Authority; Sherman Gardens co-op and parking lot; the First Bank & Trust drive-through facility, Las Palmas Restaurant, and the CTA tracks.

 Amendment to the Downtown Plan

In January, the Plan Commission approved the amendment to the Downtown Plan, expanding the boundaries of “downtown” to include an area “roughly between Emerson Street to the south, Foster Street CTA Station to the north, the first north/south alley west of Sherman Avenue to the east, Maple Avenue to the west and properties on the north side of Emerson Street between Maple Avenue and Ridge Avenue,” according to the minutes of the Jan 11 Plan Commission meeting. The amendment was approved unanimously at that meeting.