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Evanston is home to over 74,000 residents (U.S. Census 2000) and one of the country’s landmark educational institutions — Northwestern University. It was even named after one of the university’s founders, John Evans, in 1857. In 1863, Evanston incorporated and grew to become a strong, independent city that has never lost sight of what possibilities the future holds — in both sustainablilty and growth. The city fosters a commitment to its citizens educational growth, cultural awareness and to the community’s corporate attractiveness. This commitment unites a supportive residential population and a thriving business economy together, making Evanston a great place to live, learn and do business. The West Evanston Master Plan, approved May 2007, is such a commitment to Evanston’s strong, diverse makeup.

This Plan will direct the course of all future development in the West Evanston Tax Increment Finance (TIF) District. Designed through a joint community venture with city members, industry leaders, area residents and local business, it will revise and update old land use policies and zoning regulations. This Plan will help Evanston and the surrounding community in guiding the area’s land-evolution and any possible future changes to district property sold for redevelopment. “It was the desire of the residents to do a couple of things,” said Alderman Lionel Jean-Baptiste. “They have a vision of what their community should look like — the type and size of buildings — and many were concerned that unrestricted development would create high-density buildings in the area. They want TIF dollars reinvested back into the community.”

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Master plans and updated zoning regulations are complete for three of the five TIF Sub-Areas involved. Some of the affected vacant or underutilized properties include the former Mayfair Railroad right-of-way/embankment and the Church/Dodge Commercial District. “From a business standpoint, improvements are necessary to the area’s look and feel, especially around the Church and Dodge area,” said Alderman Jean-Baptiste. “Parking is also a major issue if any business or retailer is to grow.” Centering on this commercial district, the Plan extends diagonally nearly one mile between Simpson Street on the north and Greenleaf Street on the south. The Evanston Township High School and several residential neighborhoods also border directly on these revisional areas. “Transportation needs will also be addressed with necessary street repairs,” stated Alderwoman Delores Holmes.

The Plan will preserve the community’s beautiful and historic character, without affecting the established living and working areas. Evanston wants to alleviate any displacement or gentrifications caused by new construction and help keep residents in their homes. “Residents have a concern about gentrification in the area and want to remain diligent about it,” said Alderman Jean-Baptiste. “We don’t want to look back after 20 years to see what we gained didn’t account for what we lost.” The community wants this future development to demonstrate good urban design, connectivity and environmental sustainability without jeopardizing what residents have worked so hard to create.

Residents are concerned about their homes, business is concerned about growth and Evanston is concerned about both. This Plan lets Evanston take a more active role in attracting new development to the West Evanston community and in guiding the actual development process. This guidance will help enhance the community by rehabilitating declining areas. “This is an opportunity for growth of viable business areas that previously went unnoticed,” said Alderwoman Holmes. “It will help these areas flourish.” Revitalized commercial areas will give the community convenient retail sources and boost local employment opportunities.

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Evanston believes that sustainable planning and architecture, ‘Green’ technology and a balance between the natural environment and new development will meet the specific needs of the community’s growth through environmental awareness and functional engineering design. “These plans are meant to recognize the area’s residential/commercial development needs and show us exactly how we can go about accomplishing that development,” said Susan Guderley, Evanston Neighborhood Planner. The Evanston Planning Division is a viable resource for improving the quality of life for the whole community. Evanston’s solid infrastructure is built on a diverse community commited to economic development. The Plan will redevelop distressed property and revitalize adjoining neighborhoods, helping provide job opportunities and support local business incentives. It will generate sustainable tax revenues and bring added value to the Evanston community through local investment. In serving both home and business owners, it gives residents a safe place they can enjoy and merchants a functional place to deliver quality products and services. “We want to see a community without waste areas or dead-end streets,” said Alderman Jean-Baptiste, “but rather green walkways with streets that reconnect the entire neighborhood.” He also noted that residents are actively working together with city authorities in continuing to maintain community awareness toward a safer environment with more usable open areas. Beautiful streetscapes add charm to shopping, curb appeal for visitors and complement the visual enjoyment for all. Through the collaboration of city officials, residents, local business and established institutions, neighborhoods can identify their needs, focus on future opportunities and achieve their goals. Evanston strives to offer lively, walkable neighborhood centers for economic and community activity. Alderwoman Holmes stated, “It (the Plan) will benefit local neighborhoods and the entire community by strengthening West Evanston’s overall economic development.” With the use of sustainable, well-designed buildings and streetscapes, the West Evanston Master Plan will guide future development in a way so as to benefit local neighborhoods — and all of Evanston.

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