Ald. Clare Kelly (1st) rallied supporters Thursday night to push the City Council to provide more money to a local bookstore when three economic development grants come up for approval Monday.
“I don’t want to see this lovely, unique bookstore replaced with a formula, big box business,” Kelly told a handful of residents at a virtual ward meeting.
Bookends & Beginnings, now located at 1712 Sherman Ave., is planning to move to 1620 Orrington Ave.
The move was prompted by a rent increase from $8 to $18 per square foot — a new rate that the city’s economic development manager, Paul Zalmezak, says is still below the downtown average of $27 per square foot.
Because half of the proposed new 4,000 square foot space is on the basement level of the Hahn Building, Zalmezak says, the new rent overall is comparable to the cost of the existing location.
The three funding requests the City Council is scheduled to review have dramatically different characteristics.
Project Source Project Cost Request EDC OK’d City % C&W Market TIF $1.56M $634K $560K 36% Whole and Free Foods ARPA $11.35M $550K $550K 5% Bookends & Beginnings EDF $476K $476K $83K 17%
Clarence and Wendy Weaver of C&W Market and Ice Cream Parlor want to buy and renovate the building at 1901 Church St. that houses their shop and a number of other storefront businesses plus several apartments on the second floor.
The project qualifies for funding through the West Evanston Tax Increment Financing District, which has a balance of $4.1 million.
The city contribution recommended by the committee amounts to 36% of the total cost — somewhat less than the 41% the Weavers had asked for
Trish Thomas of Whole & Free Foods plans to lease 27,000 square feet of vacant space at 2021 Autobarn Place as a manufacturing facility and commercial kitchen that is projected to create more than 50 new jobs.
City staff says that project qualifies for funding under the federal American Rescue Plan Act. The EDC agreed with the request that the city pick up 5% of the overall project cost.
Nina Barrett, of Bookends & Beginnings had asked the city to fully fund the $476,000 cost of relocating the bookstore.
Barrett says she wants the new store to look good — more like the Colectivo coffee shop than the former Market Fresh Books store.
“If you remember what the Radio Shack felt like before Colectivo — they’ve done a brilliant job of making it appear rustic and beautiful — but that’s hundreds of thousands of dollars of design cost,” Barrett told residents at the meeting.
By contrast, she says, Market Fresh Books “felt like a big empty box with distressed bookcases that didn’t have a vibe.”
“We want to build something more on the Colectivo side,” Barrett added, “and it’s just not a cheap thing to do.”
But Zalmezak says the project does not qualify for ARPA funding, and since it also isn’t in a tax increment financing district that left the only available funding source the city’s Economic Development Fund — which as the budget year comes to a close has a remaining balance of just under $83,000.
The committee recommended that City Council approve what’s left in that fund for the bookstore.
Meanwhile Bookends & Beginnings has launched a GoFundMe campaign, which as of 10:30 Friday morning had raised more than $64,000 toward a $250,000 goal.