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Emerson Square


Housing Development

The development

Emerson Square is a 32-unit mixed-income development located on Foster Street (between Dewey and Ashland Avenues) in west Evanston. Emerson Square was completed in 2013 and was the anchor to a larger revitalization effort of west Evanston made possible by NSP II funds granted to the City. The project furthered the City’s community and economic development goals outlined in a master plan developed for west Evanston in 2007; and transforming an old, unused industrial site into a state-of-the-art mixed-income residential community.

The development site had a number of environmental-related issues, which required a lot of planning and execution to eliminate contamination and ultimately to complete the development. The site was redeveloped with the vision of opening up street grids and creating new green space in a neighborhood that was being negatively impacted by blight and vacant properties. All of the units have a view of the public park, which was put in the middle of the property; the development also has a community garden. The development is only a short distance from downtown Evanston, has great CTA and Metra train access and is near schools and other amenities.

Creating affordability

Of the 32 units, 28 are designated affordable for families earning 60 percent of area median income (AMI), which was $43,440 for a family of four in 2014. Four units are set aside as supportive housing for people with disabilities who earn at or below 30 percent AMI, which was $23,850 for a family of four in 2014. Monthly rents for one-bedrooms range from $717 to $850, two-bedrooms 865 to $1,058 and three-bedrooms $965 to $1,058.

Public involvement

The development of Emerson Square took four years from ideation to completion. The project required much discussion between many stakeholders, as well as input from residents and the community to show how it would be a positive change for Evanston. Many community members wanted assurances that constructions dollars would be given to Evanston contractors and developers. The City of Evanston embraced Emerson Square as one of the cornerstone projects of a larger redevelopment plan, which has helped to strengthen the community by expanding housing options at a wide range of price points.


Brinshore Development

  • Target

    Families at 60 percent of AMI or below.

  • Development information

    Type: One, two and three-bedroom rental units in both flats and townhomes.
    Total Units: 32
    Total Affordable Units: 28

    Price Points:

    • One-Bedroom: $717-$850/mo.
    • Two-Bedroom: $865-$1,058/mo.
    • Three-Bedroom: $965-$1,058/mo.

  • Funding sources


  • Private equity from Low-Income Housing Tax Credits: $8.6 million
  • IFF: $650,000
  • Evanston NSP II: $58,000
  • IHDA Loan (CDBG “IKE”): $1.5 million
  • CB Land, LLC (State Donation Credit): $750,000
  • Federal Home Loan Bank of Chicago: $228,000

  • Successes

    Incorporating community interest and input into developing a project that attracted quality architecture and great amenities for residents and the surrounding community.

  • Lessons learned

    • Cleaning up contaminated sites require a significant amount of time, care and attention.
    • Small infill projects in mature neighborhoods can be very valuable for communities.
    • Large-scale redevelopment programs that are federally funded can work if there is buy-in from important stakeholders such as local elected officials, the business community, residents and neighborhood organizations.
    • Building affordable housing can be a strong economic development tool in changing neighborhoods.