The long-brewing plan to lease Evanston’s former recycling center as a brewery is scheduled to come before the City Council for introduction tonight.

In July 2015 aldermen approved negotiating a lease with Smylie Brothers, which operates a brewpub downtown, to add a larger brewery operation at the recycling center site at 2222 Oakton St.

The proposal coming before Council tonight would slightly reduce the size of the leased parcel from the current dimensions of the recycling center property. It also anticipates that the city will construct a new public parking lot to the west of the leased property — for use by the brewery’s customers as well as visitors to James Park and the city’s animal shelter.

An aerial view of the site today, showing the current property lines in red.

In a memo to aldermen, City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz estimates the cost of the parking lot improvements, along with the addition of three new dog runs just west of the animal shelter, at $890,000. The memo claims that the city should be able to recover the cost of those improvements from parking meter revenue over a 20 year bond term for the project.

The lease calls for Smylie Brothers to pay $163,750 a year in rent on the property, after an initial 18-month rent free-period in which to construct the brewery. The rent payment would rise in subsequent years based on increases in the consumer price index.

The memo anticipates that the city would see an additional roughly $48,000 a year in liquor tax and the city’s share of property tax revenue from the project starting in 2018.

The proposal calls for a 10-year initial lease term with two five-year renewal options for Smylie Bros. as well as an option to purchase the property, subject to further City Council approval.

A detail showing the planned interior of the main recycling center buildng.

City staff is recommending a lease provision that would absolve the city from any liability to Smylie Bros. for claims regarding the alleged presence of hazardous substances on or near the property.

Smylie CEO Michael Smylie says he raised $5 million to redevelop the the brewpub at 1615 Oak Ave., in a building that had previously been a state unemployment office and that the pub has grossed voer $2.5 million in sales since it opened in June 2015.

He says the company already employes 60 people at the Oak Avenue location and would add about 25 more jobs at the Oakton Street site, which he hopes to open by next October.

Related stories

Slow going for brewery deal with city (7/20/16)

Aldermen back brewery concept at recycling center (7/14/15)

Panel backs brewery at recycling center (7/8/16)

Smylie Bros. wants recycling center (7/6/15)

Brewpub planned for vacant site on Oak (8/23/12)

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Parking meters?
    Why would people pay for parking meters if there’s free parking at the animal shelter and elsewhere near James Park? And why would people pay to park at Smylie when there’s free parking in the shopping center across the street? I wouldn’t expect parking meter revenue to be close to projections. The deal with Smylie is a great project and it should be approved. But why does it cost $890,000 to build a parking lot on land you already own? A dog run is great, but why build three dog runs (do you really need more than one)?

    1. Parking at the Shelter

      The proposed metered parking lot will replace the two dog runs the Shelter currently uses, and the three new dog runs will be where the current Animal Shelter parking lot is. Will the shelter's all-volunteer staff be required to pay for metered parking? As for the question of how many dog runs the shelter needs, the shelter houses up to 20 dogs, and each run can only hold one dog. While most dogs can be walked in James Park or nearby neighborhoods, due to medical or legal restrictions, some dogs cannot leave the shelter property. This leaves the dog runs as their only access to fresh air.

    2. I agree –  a lot of the cost

      I agree –  a lot of the cost of the 890000 must be the cost of the meters and installing them. Can't cost that much to pave a parking area and I agree that parking at the meters will be the last choice for people. Why not skip the meters?

      1. Skip the meters?

        Why not skip the meters? Because then there'd be no revenue source to pay for the paving project.

        When the city bought new meters and pay stations back in 2013, the cost of a pay station was $9,405, including installation. The plans for this project show three pay stations and no individual meters in the lot.

        So the cost to be able to collect revenue from parkers is a pretty small piece of the cost of the parking lot project.

        Whether the lot will fill up … that's a more complicated question … but I've heard frequent complaints that people say they can't find parking at James Park now.

        — Bill

        1. You can build a house for less money

          Then the question remains – how can it possibly cost 890K to build a parking lot on land you already own? You can build a house for less than that.


  2. Big fan of beer not a big fan of this Brewery Plan
    Perhaps the Smilie business plan warrants this kind of expansion but is this the right place for it? I think the park (a recycled trash heap) and recycling center in a park and community garden should pivot to a purpose around recycling, recreation and community health. What if it were a bicycle recycling center where people could learn bike repair and building custom bikes from old bikes. Partner with bike shops or Rogers Park’s Recyclery and teach bike mechanics and welding. Or put solar panels on top and grow plants year round, expanding on the James Park garden space. Partner with a university Environmental program and create a solar/aqua culture farm. Create a space for people to make meals with crops grown inside and out, providing instruction in urban farming, cooking and selling meals from an onsite cafe. And sure, let them sell beer as well. But the brewery in the park idea may be floating on a beer bubble.

  3. Exactly where is the metered

    Exactly where is the metered parking in this plan?  And how can you talk again about selling parkland in the future?  In this plan, is the city and council able to protect itself from another loss like the one you set up for us at Chicken and Waffles for $200,000?  What protection does the city include for itself and its taxpayers if and when the passion for brew pubs runs out?

    1. Chicken and Waffles 2: Electric Bugaloo

      These are good questions. Is there a minimum lease period to which the brewery will be bound?

  4. Can’t Wait!

    Really hope this plan is approved! Not only would a new business like this help to continue attracting new residents, but the improvements to the shelter sound wonderful. The shelter really needs more space for the pups and for parking, so all these improvements would really help.

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