Opponents of a proposed high-rise housing development in downtown Evanston expressed strong concerns at a joint First and Fourth Ward meeting held Feb. 15 at the Civic Center. The overwhelming majority of the 25 local leaders and community members in attendance opposed the project, with only two people speaking in support.
Key talking points during the Wednesday discussion were the impact of the building on the area and zoning concerns.
The proposed Legacy building is set to be a 15-story, mixed-use residential building at 1621-31 Chicago Ave. It would have 140 residential units, 10 of which would be designated as affordable housing. An earlier plan for the site proposed a 195-feet, 18-story building.
Chicago-based Horizon Realty Group, the developer, has plans for the site that would require a special use permit. The proposal is set to go before the Land Use Commission on March 8 before heading to the Planning and Development Committee, followed by city council discussion in April. This is not the first time plans for the site have been discussed.
Land Use commissioners last year rejected the proposal in a 7-0 vote from Horizon Realty. The Wednesday meeting saw familiar concerns brought up, particularly in relation to the building’s height, which in the current application would be 165 feet.
“It seems that Horizon Realty is employing a tactic of attrition in their repeated efforts to seek approval for a plan that is inappropriate for the site,” said William Brown, chair of trustees at the First United Methodist Church. First United Rev. Grace Imathiu asked the developers if they would consider abandoning the plan.
According to the city’s 2009 downtown Evanston plan, buildings in the D4 zoning district cannot exceed 110 feet with a maximum floor area ratio of five-to-one. Brown said the church is “one of the most impacted buildings” by the construction, as it would be shaded out by the property.
Evanston resident Bob Froetscher, who testified at the Land Use Commission meeting last Sept. 14, reiterated the impact concerns. “We can’t have buildings that change the character of Hinman Avenue,” he said.
However, the developer remained firm on its plans to move ahead with the project. “We’re following the code. Ultimately it will come down to the Land Use Commission,” said Jeffrey Michael, chief operating officer at Horizon Realty.
I have repeated this at every meeting, reference the issue of the rear & front door access. There is not efficient room at the rear of the proposed building for delivery of merchandise for the commercial businesses, delivery to the proposed retail businesses, residents moving in or out, or access for the church across the alley. The front of the building also has only reduced access for residents or guests using cabs or accessing cars or cabs to the front door. Any emergency access to the building would be hampered due to the lack of any drive way in front of the building. And traffic conflict with main street on Chicago Avenue as well as the bike lane! Traffic in front of the proposed building would be a CONSTANT ISSUE!!