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An Evanston developer presented plans on May 17 to the Design & Project Review (DAPR) committee for an ambitious development that would bring housing to a long-unused parcel of land near downtown.

John Cleary of the Chicago-based construction firm TEMP Capital is seeking a number of variances for the development, Wesley Court, 2044 Wesley Ave., which would be composed of 19 townhomes and a 12-unit multi-family dwelling. Wesley Court would also include a new private street providing access to the townhomes, and a pedestrian sidewalk connecting Wesley Avenue, Jackson Avenue and Green Bay Road.

Among the variances Cleary is seeking: Impervious surface coverage of 59.9% where 55% is the maximum permitter; building heights of 44.7 feet and four stories where 47 feet and 3.5 stories is the maximum allowed; single-family attached dwellings not having frontage on a public street; elimination of the required 10-feet-wide transition landscape strip along the north, east and south boundary lines; reduction of the required setback from and street or boundary line from 15 feet to 4.8 feet; reduction of the required setback from any boundary line to a yard obstruction from 13.5 feet to 2.8 feet; and reduction of the required separation between residential buildings from 12 feet to 7.1 feet.

The property “has a long history of being a troubled parcel of land and we hope to change that,” Cleary said. 

He estimated about $14 million in construction costs for the site, and detailed plans to remediate a contaminated brownfield site at the location, a process that would entail hauling away about 750 loads of contaminated soil.

Cleary also plans for a 200-foot extension of Jackson Avenue that would eventually be turned back over to the city. He noted that, with a new Fifth Ward school on the horizon, housing would be more in demand in the area and the new development would be well positioned to meet the need.

“I don’t think people are aware of the consequences” of the school, Cleary said. DAPR officials expressed initial concerns over parking, density and impervious surface coverage, among others.

Wesley Court would have 48 new parking spaces, but City Engineer Lara Biggs asked about visitor parking. Cleary answered that some of those visitors could likely park along Jackson Avenue, which he said usually had ample parking. Biggs replied that neighbors might object to that.

The committee also asked Cleary about the angles of townhomes’ driveways. Since residents were entering from a one-way street, they would either have to make a hairpin turn or back in to enter their driveways. Committee Chair Johanna Nyden did not see that as a feasible solution in the long run: “It [later] becomes a civil matter that staff is pulled into; we are trying to prevent user issues down the line,” Nyden said. 

Biggs also asked about the requested variance for increased impervious surface coverage.

Cleary said that was tied into the brownfield remediation—reducing impervious surface coverage means additional clearance of contaminated soil from the site, when those particular areas could instead be safely covered over. 

Additional clearance of the soil would make the remediation “uneconomical,” Cleary warned. But Biggs said the surface coverage rules were in place to prevent future flooding issues, and reminded that city staff was charged by the City Council to enforce those rules. 

Cleary was asked, given some logistical challenges, whether he would consider reducing the number of units in the development. He answered, “There is not a lot of willingness on my part to do that.”

Cleary was asked to clarify a number of matters—among them parking and snow removal—for the May 25 DAPR meeting, when Wesley Court will again be on the agenda.

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