Editorial: Council kicks the little guy

Evanston's City Council voted 7-2 Tuesday night to ban licensed peddlers from the area around Northwestern's athletic complex on game days.

The process leading up to the vote was prime example of how public issues should not be decided in Evanston.

The police chief had private meetings with university security officials to develop the plan. The city manager slipped the item onto the City Council agenda and asked the council to suspend the rules and give the ordinance immediate effect.

The rationale for the ban is that on some game days large crowds trying to get past peddlers on the sidewalk surge into the street, creating a traffic hazard.

At no time, it appears, did anyone on the city staff reach out to the small business people -- the licensed peddlers -- whose livelihood will be disrupted by this ordinance.

Each of these peddlers is required each year to submit his or her name and address to the city collector's office and pay a license fee.

Here's some advice with that ticket

where-to-park-090925.gifYour next parking ticket may be accompanied by a flier with this cheery little retro graphic. Evanston's Parking Committee this week agreed to ask parking enforcement officers to add the flier to parking tickets they pass out in the downtown area. EvMark, the downtown marketing organization, is providing 10,000 copies of the fliers, which show the locations of the city's three downtown parking garages and what it costs to park in them. Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, said she hoped the fliers would "say to people that we're really not out to ticket you" and want people to know where they can park legally and inexpensively. She said she's heard residents compare parking officers to vultures and rabid bats. "Nobody believes we offer a 10-minute grace period on the meters," Wynne added. After the jump: Plans to raise monthly parking rates -- but give shoppers a holiday break.

Osco site back to square one

Plans for a specialty grocery store at the former Osco site at Oakton Street and Asbury Avenue have evaporated again. osco-090924IMG_7475.jpg Signs that had touted the impending arrival of the new market were removed from the Osco building's windows recently. Evanston Economic Development Planner Morris Robinson says that the latest developers of the site, Jim Stivers and Dean Theo, have failed to move forward with commitments they made to the city last winter to expand and refurbish the store. In return for those commitments, the city had agreed that if the store opened, it would rebate 75 percent of city sales tax revenue generated from the property, up to a total of $1 million. Robinson says the developers failed to secure financing for the work on the site that was estimated to cost just over $3 million and was to have been completed by now.

Retailers unhappy at Evanston Plaza

Several owners of businesses at Evanston Plaza complained to the city's Economic Development Committee Wednesday night about high common area maintenance charges at the center.

A worker repairs a sign at the plaza this morning.

The shopping center, at Dempster Street and Dodge Avenue, has been plagued by high vacancy rates for years, and the committee had asked Dennis Harder, a senior vice president at the center's owner, Joseph Freed & Associates, to explain what the firm is doing to attract more tenants and increase the sales tax revenue the city receives from the property.

But the focus shifted to concerns of current tenants in the audience at the meeting.

Plumber seeks city help with building

600-hartrey-file-090923.jpgThe Evanston Economic Development Committee is scheduled to vote tonight on a request to provide $32,000 in city funds to help a local plumbing business renovate its building. Rudy Peters, owner of The Mechanical Group, Inc., located at 600 Hartrey Ave., says his building needs nearly $96,000 in facade improvement work, in part to repair problems noted in a recent property standards inspection of the property. The city's economic development planner, Morris Robinson, says the building was in a deteriorated condition when Peters purchased it in 1999 and moved his business, then known as American Eagle Service Company, to Evanston from Skokie. Robinson says Peters has since invested over $100,000 to improve the property, which generates about $60,000 a year in real estate taxes and currently employs six plumbers.

Uncle Dan's named retailer of the year

uncle-dans-090917.gifOutdoor retailer Uncle Dan's, which recently moved to a new store in Evanston, has been named retailer of the year by the Illinois Retail Merchants Association. The award was presented Wednesday at a luncheon at the Palmer House in Chicago to Uncle Dan's CEO Brent Weiss. "Brent understands the true nature of retailing," the association's president, David Vite, said. "His stores focus not only on serving the customers, but serving the community. He knows if he takes care of his customers on every level they will keep coming back. Uncle Dan's has been in Evanston since 1994 and moved from 708 Church St. to 901 Church St. a year ago. The firm, founded in 1972, also has a store in Highland Park and stores in the Lincoln Park and Wrigleyville neighborhoods in Chicago.

Store branches out into bamboo clothing

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The paint can on the floor is a dead giveaway. The interior of Chaz Nutrition and Health, which opened recently at 612 Davis Street, is still being tweaked. But after talking with co-owner J. Klaer Twist, you get the sense that the store will continue to evolve, even after the paint cans disappear.

"I wanted to go with the Evanston thing of being like a little independent, with hard to find things," he says.

Laid back and friendly, Twist is in the store seven days a week. He shrugs, "I love retail."

Twist spent 10 years as manager, then co-owner of the Evanston GNC Nutrition store. After losing his lease at the Evanston Athletic Club, he moved into Sherman Plaza, but that didn’t work out.

Negotiators agree on 'green building' ordinance

usgbc-090911.gifA special committee of environmental and business leaders agreed this week on revisions to a controversial "green building" ordinance for Evanston. But the compromise drew a mix of criticism and praise at Thursday night's Environment Board meeting. The City Council directed staff in June to set up the special committee after concluding the draft ordinance, developed after three years of work by the Environment Board, was too punitive and might stifle construction activity in town. The special committee held its final meeting Wednesday night. And on Thursday Environment Board members said they were pleased with the compromise.

'Sorry, pooch, no sidewalk dining for you!'

Pets won't be allowed to start dining with their owners at Evanston's sidewalk cafes.

Aldermen on the Human Services Committee this week dropped the idea of changing the existing ban on pets at sidewalk cafes after the city's health director said it might cause the city to lose a state grant.

Health and Human Services Director Evonda Thomas said state and city regulations now bar animals -- other than those assisting the disabled -- from food service establishments and all outdoor areas under their control.

Terms of the state grant, which is used to provide a rodent control program, require the city to comply with the state health code.