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Posted: Wednesday, September 13, 2017
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September 15 - Moms Score! Come to the east side of Robert Crown Center to the Mettle Sports Street soccer pitches for an evening of soccer, mom bonding and wine (served indoors). This is an opportunity to bond with other moms away from the rest of your family and responsibilities.
Posted: Saturday, September 9, 2017
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Open Letter About 1450-1508 Sherman Ave.
It is good to see the documents as submitted for the 1450-1508 Sherman Avenue Project, especially the Zoning Analysis re-submittals, which clearly highlight the reasons for the disbelief expressed in the comments from Evanston neighbors.
The underlying zoning for this site is D4, setting limits for height and density. The Zoning Analyses note that the designation as a Planned Development enables some extensions to these limits, and proceeds to indicate the extents to which this Project exceeds those bonuses, by margins of 15% to 300%. On these elements the Analysis correctly deems the Project to be NON-COMPLIANT.
To catalog these excesses: Height: D4 limit is 105’ PUD extends limit to 145’ Project requests 178’ to roof, 192’ to mech. 20% over PUD Density: D4 limit is 5.4 FAR PUD extends to 6.0 Project requests FAR 6.90. 15% over PUD # Units: By site area, per D4 limits, the maximum # units is 93 Project requests 287 Units. 300% over limit Parking: By # bedrooms for 287 units, parking required is 389 spaces Project provides 185. 50% of required.
The gross excesses beyond the Zoning parameters foment this citizen consternation, “Why do we even have zoning guidelines if they are not followed?” The excesses also provide the basis for the visually obvious, that the building is too plain and large and further the traffic/planning contortions at the Ground Floor.
As noted by the City, the building does appear to have been dropped from above, and the tall columns at the south end have a gargantuan scale. Also as noted, the lower retail block does appear as long and monotonous. The architect noted a relation to the curve of the adjacent tracks, and the angle of the street grid to the east, fostering a drawn curve for a building shape.
There appears to have been little development beyond that first drawn curve. A north-south building with long east and west faces suffers the worst possible solar orientation. These long flat glass and silver-panel walls will be essentially huge mirrors in the full-on low-angle morning and afternoon sunlight, absorbing great heat and reflecting light as a blinding nuisance to neighbors.
This building orientation is a particular LEED deficit. The long and high west wall will greatly concentrate and echo the sounds from the CTA and Metra trains to the neighbors on the west, also a nuisance. East and west walls should have vertical articulation, both as potential sun control from low-angle light as vertical louvers, and as well as visual interest, what formerly was called “shade and shadow,” as a constantly changing play of light. Horizontal verandas do very little to provide relief on east and west faces, as is gained from the south face balconies, which are very effective.
This building could easily be segmented to provide vertical corners, as visual relief and potential solar shading. The apartment floor plan would definitely benefit with apartment demising walls perpendicular to the corridor, rather than the weird unlivable trapezoids shown. While reducing the height would greatly improve the building’s visual impact, the resulting reduction in density would enable the Ground Floor planning to be similarly improved.
With lower density, the resident parking at the Ground Floor could be eliminated. This would enable the direct relation of service vehicles to the retail spaces and residential lobby and elevators. The current Ground Floor presents many traffic and material conflicts and difficulties: the residential parkers must make an immediate impossible hairpin turn to gain the ramp to the 2nd Floor some resident parking is set at the Ground Floor, some in tandem stalls, separating all truck delivery traffic and material movement from the retail service areas and apartment lobby and elevators.
With this plan, every single item, from beer cases to shoelaces to two guys carrying a couch must go through a double door and across the residential parking lanes and aisles. The truck locations are far removed, are they even covered from the rain? The residential parking ramps should be oriented north-south, so residents can directly rise to the 2nd Floor and also exit directly south to Lake Street.
With the reduction in parking resulting from density reduction, there would be no residential parking at the Ground Floor, leaving the entire space able to accommodate truck locations and all deliveries to take place without interference from and with the residents.
There could then be a proper loading dock, separate access for apartment moving and retail delivery, and more flexibility with the retail space configurations, such as deeper/narrower spaces. Our professional community has been meeting, seeking to define appropriate guidelines for these Evanston developments, toward maintaining the qualitative benefits and sense of life in Evanston.
One has to question the unit ratio of this project, with 80% of units as 1 Bedroom or smaller, and at very high rents. Is there really that particular demand? And at each of these new developments? I myself have been an Evanston landlord for 42 years, offering 2 bedroom apartments for young couples, recently divorced single parents and new Americans eager to attend Evanston schools. Several of these tenants I count as lifelong friends. None of these tenants could afford the rents proposed for this project.
In summary, the Sherman Avenue Project is too visually large and factually dense, by the nominal 20% that it exceeds the generous bonuses already allowed by the PUD guidelines provides no appropriate visual interest or improvement in context with Evanston is handicapped by planning complexities resulting from excess scale and promotes little to the quality of life for current and future Evanston residents, while causing a discriminatory increase in rental rates.
As Evanston neighbors, we do question the allowances to developers beyond the guidelines of the Zoning Code. As evidenced in the interest surrounding the mayoral election, we all have a heightened awareness, supplemented each day in the news, of the potential of our elected officials to impart influence, and want to be involved to help ensure we can all promote the Evanston we love.
Posted: Saturday, September 9, 2017
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Open Letter to Members of the City’s Plan Commission: Jim Ford, Chair Colby Lewis Terri Dubin Carol Goddard Andrew Pigozzi Simon Belisle Peter Isaac Patrick Brown Jolene Saul Scott Peters
I am a former Chairman of the Evanston Zoning Board of Appeals, and this is the first time since my retirement from the Zoning Board that I have felt compelled to publicly oppose any proposal for construction in Evanston.
I vehemently oppose the proposal for a 287-unit rental building on Sherman Avenue. The proposed building site is in a D4 transition district, with zoning requirements specifically geared towards creating a transition between the height and mass of core downtown and the residential areas around it.
The proposed building is the antithesis of a transition. It continues the mass of the Rotary Building into the D4 district. The combination of the variances being sought for height, FAR and ziggurat setback would enable the developer to build a structure that is more than double the volume of what could be built on this property if the height, FAR and ziggurat setback requirements were complied with.
That is not a “variation” that is an obliteration of the zoning code. The proposed building also violates the expressed intent to create pedestrian friendly walkways along our most important pedestrian streets. Instead, over half of the building’s frontage on Sherman Avenue would not be set back as required to preserve a pedestrian friendly streetscape.
I urge you to vote against this proposal. I thank you for your service to our city, but I also want to remind you about your responsibility you volunteered for to protect the city from overdevelopment. If you approve this building and it gets built, it will become a monument to your failure to protect our city a very massive monument that you, and many generations after you, will regularly revisit. This is not the legacy we should be leaving from our years of service to our community.
Posted: Friday, September 8, 2017
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Tonight, the Members of the Evanston Housing, Homeless and Human Relations Commission came to the right decision in recommending the Housing Opportunities for Women application for funding. HOW's project will bring 16 units of housing to their clients along with necessary services to help low-income women and children succeed.
Some residents of the neighborhood around Dempster and Pitner, where the recommended housing will be built, voiced concerns, and in keeping with the values of Evanston objected not to affordable housing in and of itself, but to the placement in their community.
After listening to Britt Shawver, HOW's executive director, and Mike Newman, the Shed Studio architect in charge of the design, I believe those neighbors will someday be proud of having the development in their community, as will all of Evanston.
That this much needed housing program is brilliant in its conception is clear. But Mr. Newman went on to describe the proposed building itself, one that reflects the care and consideration of future residents and their neighbors. Its elegant design is much smaller than the zoning allowed for, uses green, sustainable materials, will be built from attractive, sturdy brick, will probably reduce the flooding that plagues the street, provides parking for every unit on site, and has place for gardens and appealing landscaping. The building has large, pleasingly shaped windows on its facade giving it an unusual openness it is anything but an institutional square box. As someone who has served on architectural juries, I am impressed with its contours and its setbacks from the street. It more than rivals some of the newer architecture in downtown Evanston.
HOW's excellent reputation for being good neighbors in the many communities where its clients live, and Ms. Shawver's willingness to talk with and engage all who wish to, promises to create even more benefits to the neighborhood. There's talk of planting a community garden in designated space on the property, including residents in community watch programs, and other programs that the new building will allow.The architecture will only enhance the street, and along with the fact that affordable housing raises-- not lowers--property values these should put to rest any concerns that people's homes will be worth less.
John Ruskin wrote: "We require from buildings two kinds of goodness. First, doing their practical duty well then that they be graceful and pleasing in doing it." The HOW homes will be practical, graceful, pleasing, and reflect the goodness in providing affordable housing.
John Ruskin wrote: "We require from buildings two kinds of goodness. First, doing their practical duty well then that they be graceful and pleasing in doing it."
Posted: Wednesday, September 6, 2017
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Bad news in Illinois, and yet to be expected in 2017 America.
Daniel Biss, who I have been promoting for the Illinois governorship, had selected Carlos Roza as his running mate. Today I have received an email from Biss saying that because he, Biss, is against the BDS movement that seeks to boycott, divest from and sanction Israel because of the terrible occupation and Roza is for it, the two have parted ways. What, I ask, does taking a position on a foreign country have to do with the welfare of the people of Illinois? What of freedom of speech which we claim allows everyone to speak their mind? Biss pledges his support above all for Israel.
Releasing our country from the stranglehold that Israel and its supporters have on our foreign policy should be a top priority. Our hypocrisy over Israel destroys our credibility worldwide.
What am I to do? All of the candidates for Illinois governor are now united in support for Israel and the Illinois legislature has, along with over 20 other states, passed legislation that bans our state from doing business with any company that refuses to do business with Israel. Congress routinely does the bidding of Israel supporters. When Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, a war criminal, spoke in Congress he received 29 standing ovations. Presidents don't get that kind of reception.
I want my government, at all levels, back! As a citizen in what is supposed to be a democracy, I cannot actively work to elect yet another person who places support for a foreign country ahead of local, state and national interests, to the point of rejecting a good person on the ticket for the sake of his position on Israel. It is quite evident from Biss' statement, that even with progressives, allegiance to a tiny state on the other side of the world must be professed before one can be elected, nay even get on the ballot, to serve Americans
I am emailing Biss to tell him that my support has ended and I am emailing Roza with my appreciation for his stand even though it has brought the break with Biss. Whoever will be the next governor of Illinois, he will not be there due to my vote. This news of the day is depressing yet frighteningly routine. When will YOU, fellow American, say that enough is enough?
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