Evanston aldermen Monday night voted to reject a development project that would have created space for 500 new downtown office worker jobs.
Faced with opposition from the historically-minded not-for-profit owners of adjacent properties, they flip-flopped on a plan they’d previously backed to sell the city-owned library parking lot at 1714-1720 Chicago Ave. for redevelopment.
The 6-2 vote came even after the would-be developer had brought on local architect Paul Janicki, who gave the proposed structure a classic design resembling an office building that might have been constructed a century ago.
During public comment seven people spoke in opposition to the project including Virginia Beatty who suggested that the city could realize more revenue by becoming a destination city for historic tourism than it would from redeveloping the parking lot.
Comparing Evanston to Oak Park, she seemed to suggest that temperance tourism to the former home of Frances Willard on the block might compete with architectural tourism to the west suburban community’s many Frank Lloyd Wright-designed homes.
The Frances Willard site in Evanston is now open to visitors for three hours a week on Sundays.
In response to earlier criticism of redeveloping the site, the project was scaled back from a 14-st0ry building with 207,000 square feet of leasable space to an 11-story structure with 136,000 square feet of office space.
The developers also cut the price they were willing to pay the city for the property from $5 million to $4 million.
Only aldermen Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, and Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, voted for the project Monday.
The rejection came on a vote to authorized the city manager to negotiate the sale of the property. That measure had been introduced on a 5-0 vote at the Administration and Public Works Committee meeting last week and then approved for introduction on the consent agenda at the full City Council meeting later that evening.
Some aldermen who voted against the project indicated they might favor a different development plan for the site.
Alderman Mark Tendam, 6th Ward, suggested the development might somehow be moved back on the lot and could incorporate a portion of the alley.
Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, suggested the city conduct a national design competition for the project. “Don’t set limits on height,” she said, “just bring us something brilliant.”
The headline on this story is misleading. Rather than voting against a jobs generator last night, six alderman actually voted to prevent the destruction of one of the key historic sites in Evanston, our country and the world. The story of the development of women’s activism told at the WCTU site is one of the most important stories of our collective history – and it is housed here in Evanston. It is just one of many stories that could be told if Evanston looked to its historic past as a generator of jobs and revenue the way Oak Park does – women’s history and architectural history would be the anchors of these stories. I am grateful for the courageous alderman who stood up and voted for the long-term future – not short-term gain. Let’s do what Alderman Rainey suggested and get creative about that space in downtown Evanston. Who knows, maybe we can do what they did in Chicago and create a mini-version of Millenium Park, which is after all just a parking lot with a world-renown attraction on its roof.
The headline is not misleading.
And the new development would have not touched so much as one square inch of the actual historic site. So your claim the development would have destroyed the historic site is false.
Your mini-Millenium Park fantasy might be plausible if you had a $10 million donor lined up to pay for it. But it won’t create any new jobs
Bill, your reporting is
Bill, your reporting is incessantly biased – obvious to anyone well informed –
Sorry, Bruce, but I can’t let your obvious biases get in the way of the facts.
Is Evanston Now your personal blog or is it a news source for Evanston? If the former, please carry on. If the latter, your bias looks unprofessional.
Bruce is probably not trying to pass himself off as a journalist, so bias on his part is fair.
By the way, is Evanston out of vacant office space?
Light and love,
e.g. the Council did NOT
e.g. the Council did NOT “Aldermen vote to reject 500 new jobs” pure and simple – too many more examples of your short sightedness and bias (although i must admit my surprise that you printed my response)
The development would not have touched the actual historic site but it would have meant the loss of all the trees along its southern lot line. It would have thrown the entire WCTU Historic District into shadow and destroyed its context. Place and setting are vital to historic places which tell the story of people and events better than any other medium. In that sense, it would have been lost.
With that attitude, the property serves best as a two story building so as “not to shadow the other two story structures.” So let’s lower the price and toss it back on the market. Or better yet, let’s leave it as a parking lot so as not to cast any shadows onto the WCTU Historic District, which needs our protection from progress. And their concept is so dated it should be celebrated with it’s own historic district? That story and event should only be learned by reading about it.
There would be no shadows
The Women’s Club is on the south end of the lot and the Sun moves from East to West in Evanston’s southern sky. The shadow affect on the Women’s Club from this project is moot as it would not cast any shadow southward… only onto properties north of the parking lot. The only point there would be an ever-so-slight shadow would be during short moments at dawn and dusk when the Sun rises and set just “north” of the east-west line but then the remainder of the day, the Women’s Club would be in the sunlight pattern as it is now. And that only happens from March 21st to September 21st, where its maximum northern exposure would be on June 21st… It’s the seasons we experience throughout the year.
Please re-read my post. It was in regard to the WCTU Local Historic District which is located north of the proposed 11 story building not the Woman’s Club of Evanston. (“Woman’s” is correct by the way.) The WCTU Local Histori District would indeed, be cast in long shadows.
Take a walk over there. It’s a really cool place. Lots of history. Great stuff.
Here’s why I believe the headline and the focus of this story is misleading — 500 new jobs was a projection into the future. There was no guarantee that these would have been new jobs, nor that the space would actually be filled with tenants. Meanwhile we do know for sure what would have happened – two historic sites would have had an 11 story brick wall on their property lines. Destruction comes in many ways.
Let’s get creative and think bigger on this. We have an amazing space in downtown Evanston that can generate revenue (and still provide parking) and contribute to this historic neighborhood. Let’s do it for the long-term.
The future is always uncertain. But if we have no space to accommodate more jobs, then we definitely won’t get them.
If a potential employer said he was going to bring 500 new jobs to Evanston, that also would be uncertain. The jobs might never arrive, or the business might fail and layoff all its workers, or it might move out of town. (Perhaps you remember Washington National Insurance, once headquartered in Evanston?)
What revenue do you see the parking lot generating after you’ve turned it into your mini-Millenium Park? Concession money from a popcorn stand? And how is that revenue not also uncertain?
I think building Evanston as a destination for heritage tourism is a long-term job and revenue generator. Oak Park is just one example of what can be done. But of course you and I may differ on that, Bill.
Have you been to the Willard House and taken a tour? Or walked around the whole site? We’d love to have you come by and see this history and hear why it is so important to save. Same for all your readers. As the story noted, we are open Sundays from 1-4 pm and we have plans for. much more. We are used to people not recognizing the importance of the women’s temperance movement to the overall story of women’s lives in America. We are working to change that…
I remember when the condo building at the north end of the block wasn’t there. I remember when Evanston Place across the street was an open parking lot.
The WCTU properties survived those developments and they can survive and thrive if an office building is constructed on the library lot.
The fake facts portrayal of a new office building as an existential threat to the historic buildings on the block does a disservice to our community.
Frank Lloyd Wright
The Frank Lloyd Wright Home in Oak Park is open daily. Do you plan on having more tours, making Evanston a place to go to? Has it been a go-to place the 50-plus years the Francis Willard home has been on the NRHP?
City Revenue from ‘Historic” spots ?
How many tax dollars does the Willard house, Mansion and others brirng in ?
Property tax revenue (2015 figures) from …
Woman’s Club of Evanston, 1702 Chicago Ave. … zero …. property is tax exempt.
WCTU-owned rental property at 1724 Chicago Ave. $16,657.07.
WCTU-owned Frances Willard home and office building at rear, 1728-1730 Chicago Ave. … zero … property is tax exempt.
WCTU-owned rental property at 1732 Chicago Ave. $16,783.68.
Data from Cook County Property Tax Portal.
the Council did not “vote to
the Council did not “vote to reject 500 new jobs” pure and simple – 500 “new” jobs would not be created by this project – period – you were being kind to say the headline was “misleading”
Maybe our model to generate visitors should be Columbus IN which is the home to at least a dozen distinguished 20th century buildings.
Let’s look to the future, not to the past. So what if StudioGang designed the building? Jeannie Gang is a distinguished FEMALE architect whose building might sit well next to Frances Willard and the Women’s Club. Maybe someone should ask her.
Yes it is
The headline is misleading. Building empty office spaces does not create jobs to fill those empty spaces.
Jobs require space
The office building won’t get built unless the lenders financing the project are convinced there are tenants lined up to occupy the space.
Two existing major office buildings in Evanston — 1007 Church St. and 500 Davis — sold for premium prices within the last year because of rising occupancy rates.
There are never any guarantees in life, but your assumption that a new office building will remain empty is highly speculative.
That’s not my speculation
You’re misreading my words. Your headline implied that building this thing means jobs will be created to fill the office spaces. But, more likely, companies already in existence will occupy the spaces and bring with them the people already employed by them. It has nothing to do with job creation. that’s misleading.
You are falsely assuming that growing companies don’t move out of Evanston now because they can’t find enough space for their expanding workforce and that no new companies will ever be formed in Evanston.
You can’t grow the workforce if you don’t have space in which they can work.
I have been a journalist for 25 years, and your piece was, by any standard in the business, breathtakingly biased from the first graph. But I have a bias because my brother runs the Celtic Knot on Church Street, and it most likely would not have survived the construction period, resulting in the loss of at least two dozen jobs, the loss of a venue for local musicians and story tellers, the loss of business for local farm fresh producers, and, if may say so, the loss of a public house where tens of thousands of people have enjoyed themselves over the last more than a decade. And add on other businesses in the area dependent on parking. Never mind the promises of underground car parking at some later stage, the percentages in the restaurant game do not allow for any wriggle room.
Well, I’ve been a journalist for going on 50 years which just goes to show that experienced journalists can have differing views about what’s biased.
But you ought to know that taking a different angle on a story from what somebody else might write doesn’t constitute bias.
Have a nice day.
Are you kidding – voted against 500 jobs, opposition from historically-minded not-for-profits (not only), flip flopped, rejected even when, etc etc – that’s not taking an angle, you quite obviously favor the project – why not just stick opinion on top and go full tilt.
And you have a good day, maybe meet up for a pint some time, maybe in the Knot!
I guess jobs and tax revenue is no longer a concern ?
From the article “The Frances Willard site in Evanston is now open to visitors for three hours a week on Sundays.”
How many visitors per year ? How much revenue [taxes] does the city get ?
The comments make me think these people would be happier living in Lincoln’s New Salem where they would have all the “historical” sites they could want. Face it Evanston has few really “historric” places—and even they exist only in the minds of those still trapped in the 19th century.
They and the Council would seem to be content with the elderly, un-[under] employed living on ar raman noddle budget like the NU students temporarilty have to. But if the Council wants a new theater or arts building give-away, then cost is no matter.
Let’s stick to facts
The headline may not tell the full story, but they rarely do, and clearly at least the potential for 500 jobs was involved. In contrast, claiming that the development would have amounted to the “destruction of one of the key historic sites in Evanston” is just plain wrong – it is an empty parking lot that does not directly affect the existing sites. Of course, there may still be indirect effects, and perhaps we could come up with even better uses for the space. But in the case of Harley Clarke, years of dreams about self-sustaining, public uses have gone exactly nowhere, so I am not optimistic it will be different here. Meanwhile, Evanston taxpayers forgo millions from the sale, millions from property taxes, and (potentially) hundreds of jobs.
Set sights higher than Oak Park
I share your interest in celebrating Evanston’s history as a draw for visitors. Why not? Given the economic data available for Oak Park, I believe the ultimate value of a Women’s history center alone is over estimated. Oak Park currently has a higher unemployment rate than Evanston by about a percentage point (6.4 % for OP vs 5.5% for Evanston) and an overall lower projected job growth rate over the next ten years by about 1% less (36.38 for OP vs. 37.28 for Evanston). Oak Park is a lovely community, but it does not share assets we have, including a world class University. I hope we can focus on how to provide economic opportunities for a greater proportion of Evanston beyond the service jobs tourism provides. Again, I am not opposed to leveraging our Women’s history as a draw, but think it is limited in solving our “good jobs” problem.
Aldermen vote to reject 500 new jobs
I imagine that there are businesses in the area of this lot that are quite concerned about what is put there: the Willard house, the Women’s Club, Whole Foods, the Celtic Knot, etc. Evanston does in deed have some very fine architecture and any new additional buildings should compliment what we already have, not demean or take away the beauty of existing works. It is not a case of making do with the old stuff, it is a case of preserving a small hometown feeling. A comfortable feeling. A welcoming feelling. As one commentor pointed out, let’s capitolize on what we have sort of like Oak Park and have a happy, historic city that will draw people to us.
Ah, yes…..and I still
Ah, yes…..and I still remeber the old mansion that was the original library….comfortable, welcoming, cozy, etc. I’ve never been back since it got replaced. It should have been preserved as a treasure.
Where are the jobs, exactly?
I have a hard time understanding how a development that promises “space for 500 jobs” translates to the creation of those actual jobs, as this story’s headline indicates. Did the developer have signed commitments from companies that would occupy that space, indicating the actual number of employees that would move in? And would these companies be moving from elsewhere, rather than merely relocating within Evanston? Because a company that moves within Evanston from one office to another does not create “new” jobs (of course, a company that moves its employees from Deerfield to Evanston does not create new jobs either, but one could at least argue that such a move is good for Evanston.)
Short any of these guarantees, this proposal remains what developers always promise: if you build it, they will come. Evanston residents, like citizens everywhere, should by now be highly skeptical of these gauzy pledges, and should weigh carefully what they are giving up to developers and businesses who seek city backing and/or public dollars. I’ve researched and written about the widespread squandering of public investment on illusory jobs that never materialize. Evanston’s City Council also has a history of granting money to companies who make rosy assurances about jobs they don’t then deliver, and the city has often failed to provide proper follow-up or to penalize those businesses and developers who fall short on their commitments. (The Chicken and Waffles saga, for instance, is just one recent example in which the taxpayers lost money on such an investment.)
So let’s applaud the City Council for not taking a developer’s job creation promises at face value this time. Thinking long term about a way to highlight the city’s extraordinary historical legacy is both a wise fiscal decision and one that would help preserve Evanston’s unique character. Any city can construct office buildings and hope to find tenants for the space (though given the crisis in retail I would think extreme caution would be in order if that is a component of the plan). But Evanston’s rich heritage – in both women’s and African-American history – makes us something special. We should think big and boldly about how we can honor this legacy and invite the rest of the world to come here and learn about it too. After all, a Women’s History Museum would create jobs, too – real ones.
Jobs, jobs, jobs
When your imaginary non-profit proposes that the taxpayers fund a women’s history museum in Evanston, I hope you will be half as skeptical about the promised revenue benefits from that as you are about any for-profit project a developer proposes.
And how many jobs are there at our existing history center in town? I see eight on their staff list.
You first, Bill
You first, Bill. Can you answer the questions I posed in the first paragraph of my comment? Then we could engage more meaningfully in a debate about which as-yet-non-existent structure would be better for Evanston, in terms of employment and in terms of enriching the city overall. But I will add this point: public dollars should be spent to advance the public good. In terms of job creation — especially in terms of those jobs that would benefit the entire community, and not just those who might transfer into downtown office buildings — it would be more efficient and effective for the city to expand its own workforce, as well as endeavoring to get our major employers (i.e. our hospitals and NU) to do more local hiring and pay living wages. Those steps would do more to create employment and sustain Evanston’s working and middle classes than throwing money and favors at developers and businesses will.
Sounds like you’re not familiar with the project. The developer was proposing to pay the city $4 million for the lot … include replacements for the 74 public parking spaces in the lot within the new building … spend something close to $50 million to construct the building … pay property taxes … and sign an agreement barring any future sale of the building to a NFP, read NU.
No public dollars involved in the deal as proposed.
Now, if the city had been willing to allow a 14 story building instead of an 11 story one, the developer would have been willing to pay $5 million for the property.
Insist on a two-story building and require underground parking and you’d probably need to pay a developer to take the property off the city’s hands — but that’s just a guess.
Still looking for answers, Bill
I am familiar with the project, in that I read the packet the developer supplied to the City, in which they propose to “bring new office workers to the area (approximately 500) who will shop and dine at locally owned businesses and restaurants.” Since that is such a vague assurance with regard to job creation – it means, essentially, that we’re putting up office space that could accommodate several hundred employees for somebody so we guess they will show up — I assumed that you must know more than that, because you are so confident that this development will in fact create 500 new jobs within Evanston. So again I ask – do you have some inside information about the businesses that plan to locate in this development, bringing their new jobs with them? Because without that, this is all speculation based on the rosy assurances of a developer who, obviously, would like this deal to go through.
I also recognize that there are no public outlays involved in this particular project, and did not say that there are. But with this development certain trade-offs are involved, and of course if it were to go forward other uses for the land would be off the table. So if support for this project is based even in part on the developer’s promises in regard to employment creation, then I think the citizens of Evanston should demand to know exactly what this job projection is based on, for starters. If you haven’t already, maybe you could ask the gentlemen behind this LLC for answers to those questions, since that’s what journalists do.
My criticisms of how our city’s favors and public dollars have been doled out were aimed more broadly at past City Council decisions. If job creation that truly benefits all of Evanston is a priority, we have better ways to go about doing that than subscribing to the tired and ineffective theory of trickle-down economics. There are plenty of jobs that already exist in this community, at our major employers. Evanston values its reputation as a progressive and diverse community. One way to stay that way would be to take the lead in ensuring that our hospitals and Northwestern provide better jobs for more people on the lower rungs of the economic ladder. Such programs are being pursued in other communities – why not here? That’s a job creation debate I’d like to see our City Council take up.
Where’s the advantage?
So, exactly what upside do you see for the developers if they are unable to rent any space in the building?
You don’t think they have a financial interest in seeing the project succeed?
Why would you assume that they and their lenders are complete idiots and that you know better than they do what the market demand for new office space is in Evanston?
CoStar says that the office vacancy rate here is just over 6 percent as of Q1 2017. And you’re convinced nobody at all would be interested in space in a brand new building? And that there will never be new or expanding businesses formed here that will want additional space?
We’ve seen some people get burned buying office buildings in Evanston over the past decade or more, given the recession, but those buildings have bounced back and are now doing well.
I don’t understand why you have so little confidence in our city’s future.
Need new “major employers”
Toni, while I am in general agreement with your comments, one in particular struck me as the heart of our problem. Our two major employers are not for profit. (Before the NU haters jump on this, I am perfectly fine with the service providers having this status.) I hope our future plans somehow include growing more private sector high wage jobs, so both the employers and employees can contribute to our wonderful community. In principal, not for profits can and do contribute to our local economy. My concern is that an expectation that another small not for profit can generate the economic growth we need is misguided. We need both a sustainable way to celebrate our heritage and private sector job growth. (My personal hope is for more private sector jobs that exceed the barely living wage of many food service and hospitality service jobs). I wish we had more of the “and” conversation in Evanston rather than the “or” choice that these debates seem to produce. Finally, our two major employers do (and should) support local economic growth. To me, reliance upon them to be our economic drivers seems to be a big part of the problem.
The “job creators” are already here
In fact in Evanston we are fortunate to already have major employers – health care and education are the leading employment sectors in the American economy, and are projected to stay that way for decades to come. We don’t need to cast around for other, better, “job creators” in the private sector, because they aren’t any. And while they may be “not for profits,” both universities and hospitals have seen astronomical increases in the number of administrative positions and in those administrative salaries. As long as that’s the case, at least, then the public, whose taxpayer and tuition dollars support these institutions, have the right to question just what “not for profit” really means and whether our hospitals and universities are genuinely behaving as responsible community members.
That said, I fully agree with you that when it comes to considerations of employment in Evanston – which should address not just the overall number of jobs but just what those jobs are and who can fill them – we really need to broaden our conversation. For the most part, when we talk about job creation and economic development, we talk only about ways to attract new businesses to Evanston, which often involve taxpayer-funded subsidies. How about looking for ways that we might increase the wages and benefits for workers already employed here? Those increased wages could then be spent here, which would benefit all Evanston. How about spending more public dollars on job training, or transit options to get potential employees to the work? Or committing to expand our city’s workforce, rather than scaling it back? How about pressing to expand the potential for good jobs in those major employers we already have? NU, for instance, contracts out its food service, and thus disclaims responsibility for the wages and benefits that dining hall and maintenance employees receive. It doesn’t need to do that. What if Evanston, and Northwestern, took the lead in endeavoring to provide as many entry-level jobs, at living wages, as possible? All these options could help sustain a working and middle-class base in Evanston – which we are in danger of losing, and with it much of the “diversity” that we claim to value so much.
As you are connected to Northwestern, I urge you to take a look at the initiative I posted about in my comment above – the New Haven Jobs Pipeline, of which Yale University is an active partner. Yale has made a commitment to hire 1,000 New Haven residents by 2019. I think we could and should urge Northwestern to do something on a similar scale here. Surely NU doesn’t want to take a back seat to Yale in anything – so how about it?
Future Job Growth in Evanston
Toni, I respectfully observe that your interpretation of the current and future employment outlook is misguided using the BLS date you provided. No, health care and education are not the leading private employment sectors in America today. That spot belongs to professional and business services. Health care is an enormous sector that encompasses far more than hospitals, including ambulatory care, rehabilitation and nursing care, pharmacology and other services. Hospitals are critical, supporting about 1 of 8 jobs in communities today, yet jobs not directly related to medical care are expected to decline, not grow, over the foreseeable future due to the enormous cost pressure hospitals face and advancing automation of routine tasks. Even with job growth in the private education sector, the rate reflects a relatively low base today. Professional and business services is projected to employ 7 times as many people by 2022 than private education. That sector is growing, too, in terms of actual jobs. The growth rate is lower because today’s base is significantly higher. Higher education, in particular, is facing a unique storm with expected declining enrollments over then next 7 years. Fewer enrollments means less revenue which means reduced hiring. I am thrilled we have our two hospitals and NU as neighbors, but, in my opinion, a reliance on these sectors to produce the job growth we need is dangerous to our economic future.
The Yale initiative is well intended, and certainly sets an achievable goal. The objective of 1,000 jobs over 7 years results in an overall increase of 7.9 % of Yale’s publically available employee count of 13,000. On an annualized basis, it produces 142 jobs, although the criteria for employment is vague. Does this include temporary jobs? Must residents remain employed, or hired and laid off? Aside from those questions, assuming an attrition rate of 5% annually and a replacement of all open headcount, on an annualized basis this initiative would result in 1 of 5 Yale jobs going to New Haven residents. Admirable, but hardly breathtaking. If you know anyone associated with Yale, perhaps they can be encouraged to look at the NU approach to encourage more employees to be residents, as in the homeownership assistance for new residents offered in 2010. Or, consider the current apprenticeship program open to underemployed Evanston residents. Jobs come before training, and these apprenticeships provide the experience that allow participants to be viable to many employers, expanding their economic opportunities.
Welcome to Trumpistan
Another problem with your emphasis on trying to browbeat major employers into hiring more Evanston residents is that any number of communities can play that game.
If we try to force Evanston Hospital to hire a higher percentage of Evanston resident, what’s to prevent Skokie from demanding that Skokie Hospital favor Skokie residents, thus cutting the chance Evanston residents will be hired for jobs there.
And if we squeeze NU to hire more Evanstonians on the Evanston campus, what’s to prevent Chicago from saying NU on it’s Chicago campus, plus DePaul, Loyola and the other colleges there must favor Chicagoans over Evanstonians in hiring.
On a very small scale level, some hiring preference for local residents may work and not attract retaliatory responses. But go any further and you’re inviting on the local level the sort of trade war mentality that President Trump is risking at the global level.
The fastest way to Trumpistan
You got me, Bill – I confess, I hope to see Evanston transformed into Trumpistan. Because I have so much confidence in the unerring accuracy, the unshakable honesty, and rock-solid integrity of real estate developers, like my hero now occupying the White House. I mean, they’ve been proving how right they are about the economy, and how much they really care about those struggling to get by, since at least 2008, right? So we should turn all planning for Evanston – indeed, the entire nation – over to the developers and the CEOs! Why bother with civic engagement? We could save lots by just getting rid of our city government altogether.
Seriously – my larger point is this. The discomfort with our trade policies coming from the American citizenry stems from the growing recognition that trickle-down economic development benefits those at the top and does little for anyone else. In Evanston we could take a harder look at what we call “economic development” to think about how we could use public investment to grow our economy from the grass roots up and benefit low and middle income people directly. And in “progressive” Evanston we should engage in discussions, as other communities increasingly are, about preserving economic diversity and endeavoring to ensure that all our jobs here are good jobs that pay living wages. Because otherwise I’m not sure how progressive we really are. And maybe we’re closer to Trumpistan than we really want to acknowledge.
How many cities try to kill employment like Evanston ?
Between the Council and the NIMBY [actually anywhere five miles], I wonder if many other cities try to cut the economic [and yes route to jobs and incomes] throats like Evanston.
A few people [not always the same] seem to have the ear of the Council and will oppose new building, companies and types of jobs they feel don’t meet their elitist.standaard, better lighting or anything that clouds their vision of their 19th century city. Maybe these people should, on their own dime, try to search out employers who meet their “smell test” to move to Evanston.
To save time and effort, the Council should just prepare two lists and number each item: One of how great [they think] Evanston is jobs, economy, arts, integrated community, university, schools, trees, lake, etc. A second about how the schools are failing so many, how racist/bigoted the schools and Evanston society is for not buying 100% their view of race/gender, crime rate, homelessness, poverty, un-affordable housing, etc.
Then when publications want to write about Evanston, they can just be given the list the Council wants to fit their purpose [“Evanston is Great” or “Evanston is a Dump”]. Further more they can just give the “number” of what they want to say, as in the expression “Don’t tell me your excuse, just tell me the number.”
Great points, Toni. So I’d
Great points, Toni. So I’d like to suggest an alternate title for this article:
“City Council Acts to Preserve Significant National and Local Historic Sites. Hooray!!!”
Your headline would be a lie. The council’s action does nothing to preserve historic sites. It just “preserves” a surface parking lot.
But you’re free to start your own news site and push that fake news angle if you’d like. Just don’t expect me to fall for it.
Bill, I think the majority of the criticism this site has faced particularly in the past few months has been sensationalist at best and wholly unfounded at the worst. Evanston Now is one of my favorite and most visited news sources but this title just feels like a bad idea-while I can only imagine what constant pot shots at this publication-which to me has always felt like a labor of love by all it’s contributors and not just a job for them-has done to you as the guy at the keyboard, I just feel like a title that is not 100% water tight, which when you know that there is a pretty vocal community of detractors, should be front and center when constructing the headline. Now I fully agree that the inference that by rejecting the space for 500 jobs in a high office space demand area is tantamount to our City dismissing that potential, I think the facts and phrasing are not presented to follow that up. For example I too remember a time when Evanston was known as “Headquater City” because we had so many corporate HQ’s right here, even on Chicago Ave not far from the lot we’re talking about. When a company expresses the interest to build an office building to house it’s employees, that would factually translate to bringing employment opportunities to Evanston. However my current understanding of the documents in this situation suggest this building was commercial real estate built by a developer in hopes of use, but not explicit promise. That and the phrasing of “Reject 500 New Jobs” implies that the Alderman were voting on a proposal by an Employer to either buy or create office space that they would then fill, which again to my knowledge was not the case tonight.
Now I want to make clear that I am not typing this to proxy advocate for the historic preservation opposition, I do not agree with that position and quite honestly think it is not realistic either financially or factually as the development would not actively build over historic land and there is space for progress within preservation, but to my main point, my issue is that Bill, I feel you could have done better tonight and not faced this type of response, Evanston Now has a great and well written viewpoints section in which a piece about how this vote is tantamount to rejecting 500 jobs and not good for our economy, would have done very well I think, but because of the way this was written, I can’t blame the many here who have voiced their concern that it is “misleading” because at the very least it is not the best we as journalists can do. Their is a published code of Ethics in Journalism you can print out from the SPL, one line especially important in today’s world of information overload is : “Distinguish between advocacy and news reporting. Analysis and commentary should be labeled and not misrepresent fact or context.”
That should not come across as an accusation but as a reminder: If a headline blurs those lines and isn’t supported by facts within the article, expect people to ask questions. I apologize for the wall of text but I had to get that off my chest, I still think this is one of the best news sources in Evanston, it’s just tonight I am frustrated with how you decided to handle this.
Thanks for your comment. The headline was strongly worded. (And looking at it now I might prefer to have written “Aldermen vote to reject up to 500 new jobs.”)
But the promise of new office space is no more “unreal” than a company proposing to bring 500 jobs to the city. Both have all sorts of contingencies that could result in the promises not being fully realized. (Like, for instance, the employer could be unable to find sufficient office space!)
It’s quite clear from the comments that most of the complainers simply are not willing to accept that there are any tradeoffs to their insistance that a parking lot either be preserved as is or be turned into a shrine to the past rather than a site for jobs and economic growth in the present.
They would only be satisfied if Evanston Now ignored the adverse economic consequences of the council’s decision and instead celebrated their victory.
That’s not what a responsible news site should be doing.
Aside from the obviously
Aside from the obviously farfetched leap in logic required to create this title, the article also doesn’t address the loss of one of the very few convenient parking spots in Evanston. There is never any street parking available on Church, and if you’re running late with a baby to manage, then the extra 10 minutes needed to wait at stoplights and circle endlessly in the next closest lot (which is sometimes full) makes half my trips to the library and local shops just not worth it. Losing that lot, even for just a year during a building phase, and/or replacing it with a similar endlessly circling lot with inconvenient time-consuming pay structures in a proposed new building means that whole area will lose my business.
Also, why does every square inch of space in Evanston need to be sold off and built up? Enough already!
To pay for schools & pensions
We need to develop Evanston- especially the downtown business district, to generate more taxes. Your baby will not likely be covered by the recently passed D65 referendum (it’s only good for the next 5 years or so). Where do we get the $ to pay for pensions & schools? Taxes. Preferably business taxes created by new properties for said purpose. I’m all for preserving Temperance history- I don’t wish to recreate the horrific economic conditions that were brewing & fermenting into what we consider one of the worst era’s in our nation’s history. Bring on the development & the economic vitality that we all need to survive.
Understand the proposal, there would be no loss of parking
The proposal keeps the same number of parking spaces, so we are not “losing the lot.”
Plus the public garage–literally across the street from this site–is never full.
A surface parking lot is a waste of valuable land and potential tax revenue in a high-density downtown environment.
rejecting 500 new jobs
I quite agree with several of the above comments.
A.) the title of this article <em>is</em> misleading. The council was not voting on the creation of jobs, but the sale and development of property in downtown Evanston. Period.
B.) does anyone remember the Research Park a little west of downtown? That should be enough said, but I suppose people need reminders of what happens when property is develped with prospective tenants in mind.
C.) finding parking in downtown Evanstom is tough enough even with the library parking lot. I’ve given up looking and driven to Wilmette or Old Orchard to shop when my own efforts at finding parking have been stymied.
Finally, just as Liz A said, “. . . why does every square inch of space in Evanston need to be sold off and built up? Enough already!”
No More Fake News
Bill give us all a break. It is clear from the comments that you are losing the argument to justify that headline which is totally inaccurate and opinionated. Please spare us the “fake news” headlines more worthy of Breitbart-type “journalism”.
500 Jobs? Prove it.
Your headline was completely biased. Admit it.
Read the packet
Read the packet. 500 jobs. Millions in new tax revenue. Go ahead … flush it all down the toilet.
Empty buildings don’t equal jobs.
The fact that the building would have “space” for 500 workers is very different from actually creating 500 jobs. The commercial vacancy rate is still above what it was a decade ago.
CoStar says the commercial vacancy rate in Evanston was just over 6 percent in Q1 2017, compared to nearly 10 percent in Chicago’s Loop.
So, would you believe 500 x .94 = 470 jobs?
Or are you going to insist no office building ever constructed in Evanston could ever achieve any level of occupancy at all?
A question about the vacancy along Emerson
I don’t disagree with your numbers which are the same as sources have told us for years.
What I never understood was why there was so little interest for many years to develop the buildings, including existing ones on Emerson from Maple to the Metra tracks. It was not that far from downtown to not be considered for offices.
Someone commented about the Research Park. NU had wanted the Park but all the Council wanted to debate was it being a ‘nuclear free zone’ and no animal testing. It appeared that NU kept pressing for an arrangement and finally the Council gave in. From people who worked in the Park, it appeared NU did not really know what to do in the Park—a famous researcher was so bad at planning that his staff did crosswords every day—and then quit.
It seemed the Council, and residents were bitter and wanted to ‘stick it to NU’ and never supported what could have made Evanston the home of start-ups, ‘incubator’ and center for collaboration. But it also seemed that NU screwed-up not knowing what to do with/in the park. NU figured things out [e.g. the Garage] but too late. Now Chicago has their research park(s) as do other cities. Evanston [Council and residents] would probably never give NU a second shot—even though both NU and the city blew it. NU will probably be successful but not on the scale that could have been and the city’s antagonism to NU has prevented partnerships/consulting [Tech, Kellogg, social sciences, law]—which the districts and Council want to farm out to other states. Now taxpayers bear the cost in higher taxes and many fewer jobs. Remember Larry Page of Google worked for a tech company in Evanston—I don’t dream that Google would have started in Evanston, but how many like him has Evanston lost ?
Wow, give Bill a break
Wow, give Bill a break everyone. It was a provocative headline, big deal, not fake news. Nothing wrong with a little clickbait now and then from a local new source…
what little credibility
what little credibility Bill had on the “500 new jobs” was completely lost with the “fake news” comment –
Did The Alderpersons Provide Any Explanation For Their Votes?
Hi Bill, other than Tendam and Rainey (both of whose comments seem silly and unproductive — even though I voted for Tendam), did the other Alderpersons provide views on their votes? Personally, I’m quite saddened that a project to potentially bring higher paying office jobs (rather than food service jobs — of which this town and this council support too much with little, if any, gain) was not approved. The city would get the purchase price of the lot and I presume property tax and other tax revenues from the occupants of the highrise in the future. So, what’s the issue?
Hi Chae Yi,
Well, Alderman Miller, who’s about to leave the council, said he “hadn’t heard anybody” support the project.
So, I guess that suggests that people who think a project is a good idea need to turn out, speak at City Council meetings and email their aldermen.
In the normal course of things, people who hate a project — especially if they live or control property nearby — are much more likely to turn out at council meetings than people who may think it’s a good idea but don’t see their interests directly affected.
Alderman Wilson said he looked forward to some sort of “collaborative effort” with the WCTU and Woman’s Club groups in the future. He didn’t specify what he had in mind.
Last July, of course, the aldermen voted 7-0 to seek proposals for developing the library lot for an office building.
What about separating factual headlines from opinion/editorial headlines?
Aldermen DID NOT vote to “reject 500 jobs”. They actually voted to reject a development in a historic district.
I could argue that another headline for the same event could read “Aldermen vote to save precious historic site in lakeshore community”, right?
While I follow Evanston Now as a source of local news, I am increasingly disappointed by the lack of separation between factual reporting and editorial comments. Now, readers like me are taking -rightfully so- all headlines on this site with a grain of salt.
Your headline suggestion is laughable. The parking lot is hardly a “precious historic site”!
Value of Charging station in parking lot
I go through the alley [twice] from EPL to Clark almost every day. Of course I do not look at the charging station each time, but when I do, I think I’ve only seen someone using it maybe one car a week. There must be records of its use versus cost—how do they compare. The same for any other charging stations in Evanston [I don’t know where they would be].
Were there 500 jobs at the ready and the city council rejected them? Apparently not. This is editorializing at its worst. Is it any wonder mistrust of media persists?
Agree with Bill, but headline certainly reads like an editorial
I wholeheartedly agree with Bill that it was a poor short-sighted decision on the part of the aldermen and using the excuse that it’s a “historic site” is rubbish considering the other two buildings that have gone up in recent years in the nearby vicinity, but I also agree the headline screams “Editorial.” If it was positioned as an Editorial instead of a news article, perhaps people wouldn’t care….(Although the article itself simply states the facts and is not editorialized in my opinion). It’s obvious to anybody that the person who came up with that title absolutely DOES have a viewpoint that the decision was a poor one. Is that appropriate for a news article? Maybe, maybe not. I, for one, thank you Bill for providing these updates to the community — everybody is certainly free to agree or disagree with Bill. Maybe it makes sense to have the “news article” live on its own and then have an editorial remark as the first comment or something along those lines. That way, people won’t get in such a tizzy about it….But I think people are overreacting quite a bit. I think the architect did a great job designing this building, trying to incorporate elements of nearby properties and not just being a glass box like we’ve been seeing lately. It actually showed some thoughtfulness to its surroundings and an attempt to “fit in.” It does appear that the aldermen had a sharp 180 from the vote last summer to approve plans for the site. Doesn’t sound like they would approve any office building on that site of any height for now, unfortunately….A possibility of a large business coming to a brand new office building in the heart of Evanston on the current site of a surface parking lot sounds like a win win to me. I don’t see Evanston ever becoming a “historic tourist destination” on the level of Oak Park — Frank Lloyd Wright is a huge pull and as an architect buff, I can understand why. The Willard house is open for three HOURS for the entire WEEK! That’s a joke compared to Frank Lloyd Wright’s studio which is open daily from 10-4 with significant crowds at times. And it’s not like the Willard House is packed to the brim with people for those three hours. It’s simply not on the same level and will never be. That doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be preserved/appreciated, but those looking to have that be an economic engine for Evanston will be sorely disappointed. An office building certainly would do much more from that perspective.
Agree with Eric
Eric I agree with your piece. The title of the article was troubled, but the main issue is the basis on which the city council decided to vote against the plan, which had received unanimous approval from the city committee that should know the commercial real estate business. Given the fiscal situation of the city and how the developer adjusted the buidling design to complement the historic aesthetic of the Willard House, it seems like the city was getting a good deal. I’m surprised by the decision.
To the folks who kneejerk comment that Bill’s story was “fake news,” please stop. You’re only diluting the meaning of that term. Let’s reserve that moniker for the twitter in chief, who did not even win the popular vote, and his fellow troglodytes.
Did Lincoln or du Sable make Evanston soil sacred ?
Surely if they ever came to Evanston or the land and spit on it, some group would want to declare it sacred, tear down any building on the land and declare it ‘historic.’
Come on now, probably every square foot of Evanston had something ‘historic’ or at least memorable happen on it.
I find funny that so much is made of the WCTU and even Willard [I know she did other things] when probably a large percent of residents pushed to revoke Evanston’s liquor free status—-and get tax revenue !
A confederacy of dunces
All of this bellyaching and ballyhoo about the headline is amusing but not surprising. The building would have additional space for downtown office jobs, whether it’d be 500 or 50 jobs. It doesn’t matter. It’s more jobs. The Council rejected the project and the jobs that would follow, providing a much needed economic shot in the arm for overtaxed Evanston.
But the NIMBYs and other so called historic minded green activists latch on an insignifcant detail and cry bias and fake news!! The only thing fake is their outrage. I’m surprised no one called Bill a racist.
Alderman Brian Miller not long ago suggested the city lower the parking lot price and the project developers lower the height of the building. The developers came back with a plan that lowered the height but Miller still voted no. Crazy.
Tendam suddenly became an architect and rejected the developer’s plan, pointing out that the building should be placed further back on the lot and into a portion of the alley. When Tendam’s term ends, which can’t come soon enough, he should come before the council and explain in detail his brilliant architetectural plans for the parking lot and the alley.
The Women’s Club a while back said they have a better idea for the parking lot – a Women’s History Park!!!! They said wealthy philanthropists would pay for it. This club operates out of a tax exempt building. Maybe they and the alderman could get billionnaire Col. Pritzker to fund it. Oh wait, aldermen angered Pritzker so much he moved out of Evanston I hear.
The fake outrage on this comment board is nothing but a confederacy of dunces full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.
The project still would not create “500 new jobs” – who is the “dunce” here?
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