Evanston City Council Considers $950K Laundromat Purchase for Affordable Housing

Evanston City Council considers purchasing a laundromat property for $950,000 to develop mixed-use affordable housing. The site's contamination from a former dry cleaning facility may impact the project's timeline and feasibility.

Aqsa Younas Rana
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Evanston City Council Considers $950K Laundromat Purchase for Affordable Housing

Evanston City Council Considers $950K Laundromat Purchase for Affordable Housing

The Evanston City Council is set to consider a proposal to purchase a laundromat property at 739 Howard St for $950,000, with the goal of developing mixed-use affordable housing on the site. The city plans to use funds from the Howard Ridge TIF, which currently has a balance of nearly $1.6 million, to finance the acquisition.

Ald. Devon Reid (8th Ward) has proposed demolishing the existing laundromat building, along with a vacant city-owned building to the east at 727 Howard St, to make way for the affordable housing development on the combined site. However, the property is currently restricted to commercial development due to contamination from a former dry cleaning facility that once operated at 727 Howard St.

Why this matters: The development of affordable housing in Evanston has broader implications for the city's efforts to address housing affordability and availability, which is a pressing issue in many urban areas. The success of this project could serve as a model for other cities facing similar challenges.

The city has hired the Environmental Consulting Group to conduct environmental studies on the site. The consultant believes there is a high probability that the State of Illinois Environmental Protection Agency will issue a "no further remediation" letter within three to six months. However, there are no guarantees, and without this approval, the site could only be used for commercial purposes.

The owners of the laundromat agreed to sell the building to the city in January 2023, but after more than a year, they have reached the limit of time they are willing to wait for the city to close on the purchase agreement. The laundromat is located just a few doors west of the city-owned Howard Street Theatre, home to the Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre.

In July 2022, a fire damaged a retail and apartment building at 741 Howard St, just west of the laundromat. Ald. Reid proposed that the city also buy that property for redevelopment as housing, but no action has been taken on that idea so far. That building last changed hands in 2016 for a price of $1.25 million.

The Evanston City Council's decision on the $950,000 laundromat purchase will hinge on the potential for mixed-use affordable housing development at the site, weighed against the environmental contamination concerns and remediation timeline. If approved, the acquisition would mark a significant step towards expanding affordable housing options in the Howard Street corridor.

Key Takeaways

  • Evanston City Council to consider $950,000 laundromat purchase for affordable housing.
  • Site contaminated from former dry cleaning facility, restricting development.
  • Environmental studies underway, with potential "no further remediation" letter in 3-6 months.
  • Laundromat owners agreed to sell in January 2023, but time-sensitive due to waiting period.
  • Success of project could serve as model for other cities addressing housing affordability.