The Evanston Land Use Commission has given its unanimous support to a proposal for the renovation of the Masonic Temple, 1453 Maple Ave.
On Wednesday, Nov. 9, the commission voted 7-0 to recommend that City Council approve a plan to convert the interior of the long-vacant building into 30 rental housing units.
Architects Adam Breaux and Mike Myefski said that developers had pledged “a light touch on the interior” and no significant changes to the landmarked exterior.
“It’s an important cultural building in the neighborhood,” Breaux said.
Some neighbors said they were concerned about the increased residential density as tenants move into the building, as well as changes to the building’s character arising from interior modifications. Other neighbors, however, said that they would appreciate tenants occupying a long-vacant building.
A key concern for commissioners was access to parking. Parking at the site is virtually nonexistent. Breaux and developer Gary Stoltz said they have committed to leasing 10 spots in the Holiday Inn parking lot several blocks east. But Commissioner Kristine Westerberg noted some residents may not wish to undertake that walk in bad weather.
Breaux asserted that the plans were for a “walkable, bike-able and transit-oriented lifestyle.”
Stoltz added, “We are open to any solution with parking.”
The commission’s recommendation ultimately stipulated that developers look into leasing 15 spots and report back to the city after two years what their parking needs turned out to be.
Commissioner Max Puchtel initially questioned the number of units, suggesting that the building “seems awfully dense, with a lot of units crammed throughout the space.”
Audience member Jack Weiss asked the commission to consider a smaller number of units and leave the interiors more intact. Unlike the exterior, the interior of the building is not landmarked.
“We are just trying to furnish units that are similar to the surrounding market,” said Breaux, who added that “the size of these units are what’s being provided elsewhere.”
The commission’s support came with additional stipulations: The developers must also screen in mechanicals on the building’s roof and look into a more aesthetically pleasing alternative to a planned wheelchair lift at the building’s entrance. Additionally, tenants of the building will not be allowed to apply for residential parking permits.