Evanston aldermen voted 7-2 Monday night in favor of a plan to open a five-room bed and breakfast in a lakefront home at 300 Church St.

The vote came in the form of a motion to reject the Zoning Board of Appeals recommendation that a special use permit be denied for the project.

The plan, advanced by billionaire James Pritzker, who lives in a recently renovated home next door, had garnered support from many neighbors, but also opposition from others who have traditionally opposed development along the lakefront.

The two votes against the project came from lakefront-ward aldermen, Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, and Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward.

A rendering of plans for the west side of the home.

Much of the opposition to the proposal centered around the use of a limited liability company to own the building and the plan to have the owner-occupant of the property be a person with just a one-percent ownership interest in the LLC.

But even some opponents conceded that, for legal liability reasons, if they or a family member wanted to operate a B&B, they would probably choose the LLC ownership structure.

Supporters of the plan argued that, given Pritzker’s track record with other properties, his renovation of the building would be almost certain to increase property values in the neighborhood. They also said there was a need for bed-and-breakfast style accommodations for visitors to Evanston.

The city currently has no licensed B&B operations, despite having had zoning provisions for them since 1993.

Find more details of the discussion in our live coverage of the Planning and Development Committee meeting starting at the 7:59 p.m. mark.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Aldermen approve lakefront B&B Plan

    I'm proud to live in Evanston:  where else would the citizenry give a moment's thought to trying to stop a billionaire getting what he wants from politicians?

    I am still in awe of the courage of the ZBA:  nothing to gain and who knows what to lose:  they actually applied the law as written:

    "6-4-7 Bed and Breakfast Establishments

    (A)…shall be accessory to an owner occupied single family.."

    Apparently they did not consider a 1% interest in an LLC to be a "single family"; nor all the bedrooms for rent an accessory use.  But seven of our aldermen may.

    Lucky the folks who own really large houses in what a particular LLC considers a desirable location:  when leaving their neighborhood they may be able to get a much better price if they don't make the mistake of selling to the first single family that applies to purchase.

  2. Disappointed In Judy Fiske — Again!

    As a First Ward resident, I am again disappointed that Alderman Fiske voted against this proposal.  It needs to be noted that she consistently votes against pro-business, development opportunities when that is exactly what Evanston needs. 

    We needs a First Ward Alderman who thinks globally and not as the quasi protector of Evanston citizens.  I, for one, hope that a qualified candidate steps up for the next election.  It is time for Fiske to go.

      1. All I can say is, NUTS

        I can't believe Aldermen Wynne and Fiske voted against Pritzker's B&B.

        I found it extremely interesting last night at the Council meeting when Aldermen Wynne said there were two illegal bed and breakfasts across the street from her but she didn't "blow the whistle" because they were her neighbors.

        Wynne typifies the kind of leadership we have in Evanston.

        I can't wait until the next elections. I am chomping at the bit. I am sure others are too.

        1. Holy B&B!  The fact she even

          Holy B&B!  The fact she even felt it was okay to say that out loud makes me the president of the Anybody But Wynne fan club. 

    1. First Ward needs a new alderman

      It is true…we need someone with an enquiring mind to run against Fiske.  Are there any candidates out there?

  3. approval of b and b on lakefront

    I have several thoughts on the b and b approval.  First, I am dismayed by Mary Singh's characterization of Mr. Pritzker as a billionaire trying to get what he wants from politicians.  The stink attached to the word "billionaire" is very prejudicial, in the least.

    Second:  my husband and I have been to Stratford, Ontario many times in the recent past.  The town is literally chock-a-block with b and b's.  We have stayed in several, all in single-family residential neighborhoods.  Some were operated by the owners who lived there, some by owners who lived elsewhere, a good proportion of them retirees.  The town is delightful, the b and b's very pleasant to stay in, with an immediate family feeling among the guests as they gather for breakfast. It has contributed to the financial health of Stratford without a doubt, and even though most of the visitors arrive by car, either their own or rented, there never seemed to be a traffic problem nearby.

    Third:  I personally know two neighbors who operated stealth b and b's over the years.  When alumni weekend or graduation was coming up at Northwestern, they literally had to move to one of their children's houses as the demand for b and b lodging was so high. 

    Fourth:  As a resident a half-block away from the boundaries of the Ridge Historic District, I see these grand old houses up and down the blocks nearby.  Since people no longer have six children, and servants as they did a hundred years ago, what will become of these lovely landmark homes?  I have often thought that having a b and b would be a wonderful use for these, although being the keeper of one is not everyone's cup of tea.  Promoting b and b's as an attraction to Evanston ("stay in our b and b and be just minutes from the lake and the Loop!") might be a real boost economically, as the guests would be shopping in our downtown, eating in our restaurants, and so on. I would think the Chamber and other promotional organizations would really hop on this bandwagon. 

    In short, I am pleased that the council voted to approve the special use permit.  I also understand Mr. Pritzker has plans to open another b and b in the Emil Bach house (Frank Lloyd Wright) on Sheridan Road in Chicago.

    Mary Brugliera

    1. Wingnuts in opposition

      THANK YOU! I think it is safe to assume that an overwhelming majority of Evanstonians are in support of this B&B, as well as any others that may potentially sprout up in the future.

      Opponents are completely delusional with the notion that this will bring prostitution to our city. Considering the number of hotels in Evanston, there are plenty of other opportunities for such activity. I can GUARANTEE that a business owned by the Pritzker's will not rent rooms by the hour.

      Folks who somehow believe this nonsense of illegal activity in this venture are probably the same ones complaining about the newly renovated (safer, beautiful) lake front path.

  4. Economic development

    What is also amazing is that Alderman Judy Fisk sits on, of all things, the economic development committee.  A women who over the years has seemingly opposed and harassed virtually every economic development proposal in this community.  

    Several of the speakers against the B&B are part of her tight group that I have watched consistently fight change with their "fragile" neighborhood bias. 

    That B&B is a great use and a great addition to our community.  Bravo to the 7 council members who voted for this proposal.  Well done.

    1. First Ward nimbyism

      It isn't surprising that the First Ward alderman voted against this.  If there is an idea, ordinance or project that is in keeping with the city being dynamic and being resilient in the face of changing economic/environmental circumstances, it has generally been resisted by Ald. Fiske.

      Look at things such as the bike corral, or this endeavor.  The general rule is that if it makes sense and makes Evanston a more vibrant place, Fiske is against it. 

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