Cartoon: $2M cure for flat feet

Evanston officials are worried about what could happen if Dominick's doesn't renew the lease for its supermarket at the Evanston Plaza shopping center in 2020. But Ponzi thinks they're about to waste taxpayer money on the plaza.

Aldermen this week approved a tax increment financing district for the plaza that city staff projects will generate over $23 million for development projects there over its 23-year life. They also gave tentative approval to borrow $2 million soon against anticipated TIF revenues to fund immediate upgrades to the privately-owned development.
City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz said he wants the TIF now so the city isn't left "flat-footed" if Dominick's decides to close the store when the lease expires.
Related stories
Council approves Evanston Plaza tax district
Evanston Plaza spending estimate reined in



Let them go

Let them go, i am sure anothe supermarket wil love to move in and offer products that the neighborhood can use.
Dominicks acts like they are the poor man's Whole Foods, and their prices reflect that approach.
Their continued opposition to certain kinds of businesses in the plaza is as much to blame for its lack of success as was the previous owner. Tell them good riddance.

quick to dismiss

While it seems simple to dismiss Dominick's ("off with their heads....!") it strikes me that if dominicks were to leave few, if any, other grocery chains will move in. consider that Jewel has two nearby stores in Evanston, Trader Joe's wil lbe in place (we hope) and Whole Foods (one or both) will not move over, plus we already have Aldi's, Food 4 Less,  the new GFS Market on Oakton and Sam's Club.
Once they leave all the smaller stores will shrivel and die off - one by one since they might be more dependent upon the customers who shop at Dominick's and wander in than you might suspect.
Do not expect Mariano's to come rushing in although that would be my choice because they are smart enough to check the overall demographics and would nose around and discover the history of failures within this shopping center, let alone the presence
What truly amazes me is that Wally openly admits that Dominick's might leave and yet allows the Council to move ahead full-steam as if might not matter. At least one alderman (Wilson) from the adjacent area recognized that this was a bad plan, as did two others. What prompted the other five to go along?

Wally's newest reckless behavior!

Borrowing against the tax increment!  One counicl member claimed a few meeting ago what was the problem with this TIF since if there was no increment, there was no money to spend.  She approved the TIF with Wally's ability to borrow the money against funds that were not there.
This entire TIF is a real and dangerous problem that may come back and bite taxpayers, who will ultimate have to pay if there is no increment.
Given the past history  the likelyhood of failure is high, no different than the Wine and Cheese Bar - which we will most likely pay for on Howard Street.
By the way the TIF consultant claimed this would be used for public improvement totally bogus, the money appears to be going for build outs of space, something the developer should be paying for not taxpayers. By the way a few council did reconize the misuse of taxpayers money and voted against the TIF.

Evanston Plaza

Dempster-Dodge, Evanston Plaza.  I've lived here over 20 years and a certain image comes up & not always a particularly attractive one.  What Evanston Plaza could use, along with Dominick's, is a good reason to shop there.  Something that would bring families in that could give young adults somewhere to go and to have fun, too.  With some space.  I mean, big enough to acommodate families, teenagers out for the night,  or a group of people intent on returning on a regular basis. 
A bowling alley.  That's what we need.  Something all ages would, could enjoy.  It's physical activity that's competitive and fun.  And we need not have a bar.  In fact, let's leave that out of it completely.  There's a great place on the corner for pizza that's already there...
Don't think I'm alone with this idea.  There's talk some folks are looking into it.  A big beautiful bowling alley would help energize the area as a happy destination for a diverse group of people from Evanston and beyond.


Pretty sure that without a bar you don't get a bowling alley.  Bowling alleys are basically food and beverage operations, always have been, and the newer iterations of bowling alleys are even more food and liquor dependent.  Bowling is the activity that draws the customer that drinks the beer and orders the pizza.  Bowling does not survive without the bar, simple fact.

Wilmette bowling alley

Do they serve liquor ?  People I've seen going in there don't look like the beer crowd.
My home town bowling alley does very well without liquor.

Bowling with no beer?

Your hometown bowling alley apparently wasn't doing so well because they serve both beer and food. 
If you want a bowling alley built out from scratch anywhere in the country, they need beer and food, simple fact.  It would take 3 or 4 minutes of simple math to figure out that income from lane and shoe rentals, maybe soft drinks, gives you a completely unsustainable business plan.

What's wrong with a bar?

Selling booze in that plaza is already taking place.  Panino's has a small bar.

More money more money

Fantastic!  Lets tax the residents for a half-empty shopping mall with such attractions as a dollar store.  And all of this "foot traffic" is supposed to come from where?  The fast food restaurants across the street?
And how about this gem, "Aldeman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward said she'd like to retain the store, perhaps in a new format. "I hope their arrogant response doesn't turn us off to their tenure there," Rainey added.  What does that even mean?  The city called the property lease holder and asked if they were interested in footing some of the bill for improvements, they said "no."  How is that an "arrogant response?"  These inexperienced "aldermen" have their heads up their asses.  Normally such inexperience and lack of vision comes from junior politicians in struggling neighborhoods of Chicago, not from the shining beacon of Evanston. 
Wally is slashing and burning libraries (which I actually agree with), now he wants to raise taxes to the tune of 23 million so this mall can get a facelift?  Has the city completed any type of evaluation or feasibilty studies to see if that mall's location can actually support the type of tennants the city wants?  "Food deserts" are the hot new topic on NPR but there is no standard for “inadequate” access or “adequate” access to foods, so this alderman is simply posturing.  For 23 million dollars, the city might as well just deliver food to low income houses several times per week.  It would cost less and might actually help some people.  Obviously that cant happen but it would make more sense than people living near Central or St. Francis footing the bill for a crappy mall at dempster and dodge.   And with the parking options near the planned Trader Joes on Chicago, I think the dempster and dodge location would have been a MUCH better choice for everyone.  People will drive an extra 5 minutes to get there and they have enough parking to support the traffic.  The LAST thing dempster and chicago ave needs is another big destination...the entire area is going to be a parking lot.

Why no tenants ?

Fifteen years ago the plaza had stores worth going to---even for someone on the city's northside. [I guess given the poor shopping the Councils over the years have assured, that is not saying much.  Has the Council asked the former tenants why they left ?  Have they done a risk assessment of the type of businesses they want/expect ?  Have they got lease commitments before they spend the money ?
When KFC was there I went over to the plaza---that reason is of course gone now. The stores looked in good shape.  Find out why businesses have not wanted to come there already.  Where do they think they need to spend all that money ? Or is it just putting more money in hands of friends ?
TENANTS ! TENANTS! TENANTS!   Get  them first.  We don't need another 'Field of Dreams' !
I suspect why it is empty is the same reason so many places in Evanston are empty—TAXES and the city harassing them with policy that makes no sense.  The Council should first consider why they screwed up business in downtown Evanston so bad.

23 million tax?

Pretty sure you don't understand how a TIF works, taxes are not being raised by 23 million and all the current taxes will continue to be paid to the schools and the city.  While I admit taxes go up more than they should (and why city investments in economic development is important) and debate about TIF's are valid, a basic understanding is needed. 
Also, doesn't matter where you want or think a Trader Joes should go, when Trader Joes does their research and doesn't want the location, and apparently they didn't want dempster and dodge, then they don't want it, simple, end of story.
On the other hand, Evanston does want the jobs with the several million in annual payroll they will generate, plus everything else they bring and pay to the community, which all far surpasses the small annual cost the city will incur on parking.  

Trader Joes did not want the Plaza. Why ?

"Also, doesn't matter where you want or think a Trader Joes should go, when Trader Joes does their research and doesn't want the location, and apparently they didn't want dempster and dodge, then they don't want it, simple, end of story."
Maybe this is a tip-off that something is wrong with the plaza that needs to be fixed---not just pouring money into it or making it a TIF.
Why did Trader Joes research tell them not to build there ? [Remember parking is already there].  Were they asked ? Have their concerns been addressed in plans for the plaza ?
To say Dominicks is there does not cut it since the did choose to move next to BOTH Jewel and Whole Foods.
Before "build it and they will come" should be sign-up tenants and if repairs/changes are needed give them input.  It seems the best home-builders get clients and build for their desires instead of building and then finding buyers----the latter the bane of sub-divisions.
How many times must we pay for the Council 'picking winners' [of course they are not winners.  Now they want a new health clinic which it seems they did not even think through.  Is there something on the calendar in the Council meeting room that says '1st of each month find some new development/project to spend taxpayer money on' ?

Do you rely on Evanston Now for local news? Support independent journalism by becoming an Evanston Now member. Contribute monthly or just once.

Become a member