A self-storage business looking to expand its property in Evanston, Ill., is facing opposition from residents who say adding outdoor storage will deplete the area’s green space. John Cooper, representing Chicago Northside Storage, appeared before the city’s Design and Project Review Committee (DAPR) last week to present a plan that would add about 56 outdoor storage pods on the west side of the building at 2020 Greenwood St., according to the source. The area is between the existing storage structure and a loft building.
Adding the outdoor storage units would require a curb cut to allow easier access to the units from the street, the source reported. The area would also need asphalt covering approximately two-thirds of what’s currently a grass-covered field.
Linda Paternostro, president of Friends and Neighbors Association, which represents about 100 residents in the area, said many are opposed to the asphalt overlay. "We don't have a designated park," she said. "The closest park is Penny Park and one of the things Evanston prides itself on is the fact you value trees, you value green space."
Paternostro also objected to the characterization from the storage company that “only a strip of grass” was being removed. "It's not a strip of grass. It is 2 to 3 acres. It is a sizable piece of beautiful scenery," she told the committee, adding the area in question also includes cottonwood trees that “rival some of the redwood trees in California.”
Additional concerns included the facility’s expanded hours, more lighting, noise from cars and the use of a chain-link fence with barbed wire. "I'm not anti-business. I support economic development in our area. I just don't want it to diminish our present quality of life,” Paternostro said.
Lon Porter, owner of 2100 Greenwood Lofts, which is adjacent to the proposed development area, added the facility’s hours of operation would be an issue of contention.
Since acquiring the property, Cooper said he has retrofitted the one-story building and cleaned up what was once a driveway area and utility easements, adding two loading zones and 35 parking spaces. Lease-up has been slow for the 776-unit property, with occupancy at about 7 percent, Cooper told the committee, which is made up of city staff.
Mark Muenzer, community and economic development director, questioned why an addition was needed if the facility had only 7 percent occupancy.
Cooper said exterior units would accommodate a different clientele. Access hours would be extended for those tenants since some may include contractors who would access the facility during the early morning hours, he told the committee.
The city’s staff will submit comments on the project, according to Muenzer, who said he hopes the storage operator will respond to citizens’ concerns and work toward a proposal. Cooper met with residents following the DAPR meeting, but declined to give the source a comment.
Muenzer also suggested Cooper consider converting part of the facility’s existing parking lot to exterior storage. Doing so would require a variance through the city zoning board of appeals and council, he said.
Cooper is a partner with HAN Capital LLC, a Chicago-based private-equity firm that offers professional management and corporate restructuring.
Family-owned Chicago Northside Storage also operates facilities in Lakeview and Wilmette, Ill.