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Preservation Commission adopts ‘ambitious’ plan

The Preservation Commission has a plan.

The new plan, which passed unanimously (10-0) in a quick meeting Tuesday, Dec. 6, replaces the previous plan they had from 1981.

Members of the Preservation Commission during the Tuesday meeting. Credit: Manan Bhavnani

The Preserve 2040 Long-Range Work Plan, which has a nearly 18-year timeline, sets out some key goals relating to historic preservation and community engagement.

The plan is closely tied to the city’s Climate Action and Resilience Plan (CARP), affordable housing program and economic development goals.

It also calls for the re-survey of the Ridge and Northeast Historic Districts, which have not been surveyed since 1984 and 1999 respectively. Other key initiatives of the plan relate to surveying the city’s park system and business districts.

This is also the primary guide to the commission’s oversight and administration of Evanston’s historic preservation program.

“Preservation is inherent to sustainability,” Cade Sterling, a city planner on the commission said.

Get to know the Preservation Commission

Commissioners at the Tuesday meeting asked about how community members can engage with the commission and utilize their data, as well as discussed provisions in the 2040 plan.

“I’d love to have more education around an individual homeowner coming in front of this commission,” Commissioner Amanda Ziehm said. She said some residents that live in a historic district told her they found engaging with the commission to ‘daunting,’ or at times, expensive, when it comes to hiring architects or engineers.

“Zoning is the first step for a project,” said Carlos Ruiz, city planner. “Maybe that’s part of the education we need to impart,” he said. While the city has regulations on permits and zoning, the commission hopes to make it easier for residents to answer the question “what should you be aware of when you live here?”

From left to right: Cade Sterling, city planner, Committee chair Susan Reinhold, Carlos Ruiz, city planner, and Commissioner Aleca Sullivan. Credit: Manan Bhavnani

“Those things should be completely transparent, and I think there’s a lot of initiatives in the plan that would help achieve that,” Sterling said. The plan also prioritizes filling gaps in documentation of groups and communities that have not adequately represented.

“The thing that people will hopefully see in the very near future is these incentive programs, whether it be technical assistance, financial incentives,” or resources to understand how to better maintain their homes or what it means to live in a historic district, Sterling said.

“I think the idea is that you’re improving built outcomes, improving general quality of life and making sure that preservation stays relevant in the future,” Sterling said.

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