On Jan. 28, Focus Development, Inc., a developer, and Booth Hansen, Ltd., an architectural firm, entered into a consent decree, under which Focus has agreed to make alterations to the eight-story apartment building at 1717 Ridge Ave., so that the common areas and all 175 units will be accessible to people with disabilities.
The consent decree resolves a lawsuit filed by Open Communities in the United States District Court in Chicago. The lawsuit alleged that Focus and Booth discriminated against people with disabilities by failing to design and/or construct the apartment building with the features of accessible and adaptive design and construction required by the federal Fair Housing Act.
In the litigation and in the consent decree, Focus and Booth denied Open Communities’ allegations, and they state they are settling solely to avoid the cost of protracted litigation.
In the consent decree, Focus agrees to make the following alterations to the building within five years: Bathrooms and kitchens will be useable for wheelchair users; threshold obstructions will be eliminated so wheelchair users have access to the balconies; in the common areas, mailboxes will be lowered and the parking spaces in the garage will be restriped or otherwise modified to allow entrance without obstruction by columns; outside the building, a curb cut on Ridge Avenue will be added to allow access into the building.
As long as the consent decree is in effect, Focus is required to retain a qualified third party to certify in writing that the design of any new multifamily development that Focus is developing or constructing complies with the Fair Housing Act’s accessibility requirements.
As part of the settlement, Focus and Booth agree they will each pay $87,500 to Open Communities for damages, attorneys’ fees and costs.
“Today we celebrate a victory for people with disabilities in Evanston,” said Gail Schechter, executive director of Open Communities, in a prepared statement. “And by upholding their fair housing rights, we also uphold the rights of all people, including those with mobility impairments, to live in the housing of their choice.”
“Accessible housing is important to providing the highest quality of life for all Evanston residents and to achieving our goal of being the most livable city,” said Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl. “Increasing the supply of rental housing for people with disabilities is a top priority. The City of Evanston is working with Open Communities to ensure that all developers and contractors understand their obligations under federal, state, and local fair housing laws.”