City officials and representatives from Chicago-based Horizon Realty Group met Tuesday, July 26, with First Ward residents for what turned out to be a tumultuous online discussion about an ambitious proposal, the Legacy Evanston, 1621-1631 Chicago Ave.

Developers have proposed plans about Legacy Evanston multiple times – though the exact number, like almost everything else at the meeting, was in dispute. Developers said it has been twice and residents said it has been three or four times. Many residents indicated the developers have changed their proposals very little with each attempt; Horizon’s representative disagreed.  

Horizon is proposing an 18-story mixed-used residential building with 7,159 square feet of ground floor commercial space, according to City of Evanston records. The building would feature 180 dwelling units, 18 of which would be deemed affordable housing, and 57 parking spaces. The building, as currently conceived, would be slightly taller than 195 feet.

Horizon also owns The Merion at 1611 Chicago Ave. and owns and operates about 2,400 units throughout the Chicago area.

Zoning variances will be needed for the building’s height and number of parking spaces, said Meagan Jones, City Neighborhood and Land Use Planner.

Jeffrey Michael, Chief Operating Officer of Horizon, said his proposal would bring affordable housing, luxury rental options, economic benefits and jobs to downtown. He pledged a commitment to the community and encouraged residents to “think boldly” about the project.

But a number of residents spoke against the proposal, maintaining that the building would be out of scale, block out light and add to traffic. One resident, Robert Froetscher, went so far as to call the proposal “obnoxious.”

Bill Brown, the chair of trustees at First United Methodist Church, added, “The height of the building, at 18 [stories] is what we’ve expressed concerns about. … This is an unpopular project.”

But Michael asserted that the height was both a matter of economics and ultimately is what allowed for the number of affordable units in the Legacy Evanston. The building, he said, “has to be taller to provide affordable housing.” 

Horizon’s proposal began with a base number of 128 dwelling units, of which 13 (roughly 10%) were designated as affordable. For each of those affordable units, Horizon could then add four units, for a total of 52 more. Horizon designated five of those additional units as affordable.

At one point, Michael was asked what stops him from proposing a shorter building. He answered, “We’ve looked at everything, but there are certain sunk costs…that need to be spread amongst a larger building.”

But First Ward City Council Member Clare Kelly, who moderated the discussion, maintained that affordable units in luxury buildings do not lead to sustainable affordability for the city, noting that Evanston has a “bare-bones” affordable housing ordinance. The city, she added, needs to concentrate on developing affordable housing throughout all of Evanston’s neighborhoods and not just rely on developers of luxury projects.

Resident Jonah Karsh said he disliked the specifics of the Legacy Evanston proposal but reminded the participants that affordability sometimes required sacrifices of parking and sunlight from residents. 

According to Jones, the Legacy Evanston Proposal next goes to the City’s Land Use Commission, where it is tentatively scheduled to be heard on Aug. 10. 

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  1. Note: I do not live at either 807 Davis or 1580 Sherman, nor do so plan to.

    The ratio of only 57 parking spaces to 180 units, in and of itself, should be a nonstarter for this project. Add the fact that 18 affordable housing units out of 180 in an otherwise luxury building is but a drop in the bucket of Evanston’s need for affordable housing all around town, and it’s a no-brainer: reject this proposal.

    That is not to say anything of what may happen to the property values of owners at 807 Davis and 1580 Sherman whose units face northeast and currently have a view of the lake, which would be blocked by such a high rise.

    Finally, if, as proposed in the article, residents should be willing to make some sacrifices of parking and light, why shouldn’t Horizon be willing to make some sacrifices in recouping a portion of sunk costs if Horizon were to propose, say, a 9-story building like the new “Link” on Emerson? I mean, Horizon keeps increasing its own sunk costs by hammering away at this project, which has already been rejected more than once.

  2. With fewer than 1 parking space per two units, this project will overwhelm nearby public parking to the detriment of area businesses and restaurant goers. Do the developers think that reasonably good public trans to/from downtown Chicago means that people will have no need of a car for other destinations, or a parking space to accommodate visitors?

  3. I hope that Horizon remembered some comments from their last meeting.
    IE: They need MORE space for large vehicles like moving vans & delivery trucks in the alley. Also with all the traffic on Chicago Avenue this building will need vehicle space in the front of the building. Kind of like their building NEXT DOOR!
    Fred Tanenbaum 312-613-1323

  4. 57 parking spaces for a 180 unit building plus commercial space? I hope the city nixes this project

  5. We do not need any more expensive apartments in Evanston! As a Realtor in Evanston, I have a hard time finding modern properties for buyers, and yet rents are so high that buying is an attractive alternative. There hasn’t been a large condo project in Evanston since 2005, but I can count at least 8 large apartment buildings built since then. Let’s get some balance in our housing offerings.