Horizon’s plan for Evanston high-rise hits snag

Land use commission says 18 stories is too tall

Horizon Realty Group’s Jeffrey Michael and a rendering of the project at 1621 Chicago Avenue (Legacy Evanston, Horizon Realty Group, Getty)
Horizon Realty Group’s Jeffrey Michael and a rendering of the project at 1621 Chicago Avenue (Legacy Evanston, Horizon Realty Group, Getty)

Horizon Realty Group learned this week that size does matter.

Its plan to build an 18-story housing complex in downtown Evanston hit a snag when residents and members of the suburb’s Land Use Commission said the project is too big for the neighborhood.

The commission recommended that the city council deny Horizon’s planned development application, which is the group’s second attempt to redevelop the site. Horizon’s COO Jeffrey Michael said his team plans to regroup and see what adjustments they can make to the plan, which was set to include 18 affordable housing units.

“I think communities have to get real about sacrifices if you want to have affordable housing,” Michael said.

It’s a challenge developers in many communities are facing: denser and higher builds that allow them to build enough market-rate units to offset the cost of including affordable ones often run into zoning restrictions.

“I think it’s too large, too tall, and still this project needs to work to become compatible,” commission member Kiril Mirintchev said at Tuesday’s meeting.

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Michael’s rebuttal was that the project presents a chance to revitalize Evanston’s downtown and provide more luxury rental options. It would bring in $1.6 million annually in property taxes.

“It’s a unique opportunity for Evanston to accomplish some of the key goals that it’s set for itself,” he said, noting the pandemic’s economic impact. “It’s an opportunity to take an eyesore property that is only marginally contributing to the community and turn it into a crown jewel.

Michael suggested it was too early to estimate a price for the project but said Horizon was looking at $300 per square foot.

Neighborhood residents are also concerned about the development bringing increased traffic to the area, impacting safety but said it’s a good project in the wrong location.

Horizon’s initial proposal for the site at 1621 Chicago Avenue was a 28-story building with no affordable units. Evanston’s Inclusionary Housing Ordinance requires that 10% of units be priced as affordable housing and allows developers to pay a fee in lieu of on-site units, though building the units on-site qualifies for density, height and floor area ratio bonuses.

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Horizon Realty Group's Jeffrey Michael and a rendering of The Legacy at 1621-31 Chicago Avenue (Jeffrey Michael, Pappageorge Haymes)
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