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EVANSTON, IL-Not only would it be one of the few multifamily rental projects to be built in the market in recent years, the developer also would set aside 10% of the luxury units for low- and moderate-income residents. However, members of a city council committee need more time, as well as the opinions of the rest of their fellow aldermen, before deciding whether to allow a 220-unit apartment building to be constructed at the site of a former grocery store.

The proposed $32-million Reserve at Evanston project for 1930 Ridge Ave., has garnered support from an increasingly hard-pressed local business community, as well as environmental and housing advocates. However, opposition is coming from long-time residents of the neighborhood northwest of this North Shore suburb’s Downtown. The proposal will be considered again by a divided planning and development committee Sept. 20.

Atlanta-based Atlantic Realty Partners, Inc. is seeking rezoning of the former Whole Foods site from commercial use to R-6, the densest residential zoning allowed by the city. However, the plan commission recommended only R-5 zoning, which would limit the building to six stories.

Atlantic Realty Partners President Richard D. Aaronson says his company, which recently branched out of the Southeast with the 231-unit Reserves of Wauwatosa in suburban Milwaukee, is amenable to further negotiations. “We’ve continued modifying our proposal,” Aaronson tells GlobeSt.com. “We originally proposed 11 stories, we’ve added affordable units, and we’ll continue to try to work on our proposal.”

During give-and-take between Atlantic Realty Partners and the city plan commission, the size of the building was reduced from 11 stories to eight, but a ninth story was added Monday night in order to satisfy a plan commission member’s suggestion that affordable housing be part of the plan.

“I was very disappointed to hear about a ninth story going on the building to get affordable housing,” says planning and development committee chairman Stephen Engelman.

While Atlantic Realty Partners is agreeable to 22 units for residents who would pay no more than 30% of their incomes toward rent, attorney Bruce Huvard warns scaling down the current plans may affect the developer’s ability to provide those units.

“They’re using this as a carrot to get into the city and do what they want,” says resident Roberta Hudson. “The people don’t want it.”

Local business owners, among others, beg to differ about a project that also would generate an additional $400,000 in property tax revenues to the local school systems and municipal operations.

“We’re having a continued problem bringing new traffic in,” says Shawn Ryan, owner of the Hyde Park Computers store. “The city is becoming more and more difficult to do business in.” How do you expect small businesses to stay in business?”

Other supporters say the project would be environmentally sound as it is located within walking distance of Chicago Transit Authority, Pace bus and Metra commuter rail lines, as well as increasing the diversity of the city on Chicago’s northeast border by meeting a “critical need” for affordable housing. Without subsidies, rents in the building will range from $1,300 a month for one-bedroom units up to $2,800 a month for three-bedroom units, Aaronson says.

However, 5th Ward Alderman Joseph Kent, who represents the area where the apartment building would be located, says eight stories is too high, and the location does nothing to reverse a trend in his ward that has seen the area west of Green Bay Road become a lower-income area while east of Green Bay Road – the proposed site is one block east — is more affluent. “This project comes off as an elitist project,” Kent says. “This has an ugly ring to it.”

If Atlantic Realty Partners gets city approval, completion could be in early 2003, but Aaronson warns it could take longer if construction begins in winter. “We’re reaching the point where we need to resolve the issue,” he says.

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