Eighth Ward Alderman Ann Rainey and Evergreen Real Estate Development Director David Block exchange congratulations Jan. 21 after the Evanston City Council approved Evergreen’s request to construct a four-story addition to the Council for Jewish Elderly building on Howard Street.

With affordable senior housing a big need, the City took a small step in that direction Jan. 21, approving developers’ plans to build a four-story addition, including 60 affordable units for older residents, on Howard Street.

Aldermen voted 5-0 in favor of plans by Evergreen Real Estate Group to construct a four-story 51-foot-high addition to the current Council for Jewish Elderly Senior Life Adult Day service center at 999-1015 Howard Street.

The site is located on the north side of Howard Street in mid-block between Barton and Ridge avenues.

The improvements on the property include the existing CJE building, its parking lot and the former Dairy Queen at the east end of the site.

Aldermen approved the project by a 5-0 vote.

The addition will bring esthetic improvements to the area that will include the site, block and surroundings, staff said in a memo.

Under a new ownership structure, CJE’s tax-exempt status will not carry through for the project, allowing a current commercial property to come on to the tax tolls, generating an estimated $65,000 to $70,000 in new property tax annually, about 20% which will go the City, pointed out Michael Griffith, the City’s Development Planner, in a memo.

“The project will also activate the long vacant Dairy Queen site and further the City’s goals to redevelop the Howard Street corridor,” he noted.

The approval came on a night when a study confirmed a large unmet need for more affordable living units in the city at multiple income levels.

Sawgrass Partners, which conducted the study for the City, found that there is a critical need for seniors 75 years old and older with incomes 80% of the Area Median Income (AMI), a group that is projected to make up approximately 49% of all households 75 and older by 2024.

At an earlier City meeting, a representative for the developer estimated unit cost between $400 to $1,000 a month, with no more than 30% of a resident’s income going toward housing.

A $2 million grant from the City’s HOME Investment Partnership and Affordable Housing Fund helped fuel the project, which has an estimated construction financing of $14.2 million.

Council members voted last year to approve a letter of support for up to $2 million income housing tax credits, Sarah Flax, the City’s Housing and Grants Administrator, said in a memo.

Enumerating the different sources of funding used, Alderman Ann Rainey, in whose Eighth Ward the site is located, observed “to build a building like this is not cheap.”

In that regard, the City’s $2 million contribution “was absolutely critical,” she said.

For the investment, “Howard Street is getting a great building,” she said, adding, “It’s been a long time coming and desperately needed.”

David Block, Evergreen’s Director of Development, said his team was similarly delighted.

“We’re really excited to finish the final pieces of this process and get it started,” he said after the vote.  “It’s a great project, and we think it will be a great part of the neighborhood on Howard Street.”

Mr. Block said the development team is hoping to start construction this summer and anticipates a 14-month construction period, with completion projected for summer, 2021.

As for the City’s need for more affordable housing for seniors, “clearly there’s a need for it,” Mr. Block said. “I don’t know how you fill that whole need, but we think our project is at least part of the solution.”

Bob Seidenberg is an award-winning reporter covering issues in Evanston for more than 30 years. He is a graduate of the Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism.