Autobarn owner Richard Fisher says that at the suggestion of Evanston officials he’s redesigned his plans for a new facility on Hartrey Avenue to include all the firm’s service operations.

Fisher describing his expansion plans to the Economic Development Committee.

Autobarn owner Richard Fisher says that at the suggestion of Evanston officials he’s redesigned his plans for a new facility on Hartrey Avenue to include all the firm’s service operations.

Fisher told the Economic Development Committee Wednesday night the redesign was based on conversations with Aldermen Melissa Wynne and Ann Rainey and the city’s economic development staff.

Last month Fisher announced plans to buy the former Shure site at 222 Hartrey Ave. and convert it to a storage facility for new and used cars and a space to prepare new cars for delivery to their buyers.

At the time he told neighbors of the site that all repair and maintenance work for customers would continue to be done at the company’s three dealerships on Chicago Avenue.

Fisher said the idea of separating repair from sales operations is controversial in the industry, and “I have an enormous amount of trepidation ” about it.

He said his general manager, Richard Kirkpatrick, had worked for Hanley Dawson in the 1980s and 1990s — a dealership that Fisher said “put itself right out of business” after moving its service facility off site.

But he said the concept seems to be working well now for the Fletcher Jones dealership in Chicago, and he thinks it could work here in Evanston.

Fisher showed committee memberes a preliminary drawing of how the building on Hartrey might be laid out to accommodate separate service areas for the three different brands his dealerships sell — and discussed requirements the manufactures would impose for preserving their separate identities at the facility — as well as for any remodeling of the dealerships on Chicago Avenue.

Fisher said that moving the service operation would let him devote more space on Chicago Avenue to new car sales, which would reduce noise complaints from neighbors there and could lead to increased sales.

He added that 80 percent of the firm’s customers live west or southwest of the dealerships, and so the Hartrey site should be convenient for them.

Committee members voiced support for the proposal and moved to recommend approval of a resolution supporting a property tax break for the project to the City Council for action next week.

They also endorsed plans to start the process of expanding the Howard-Hartrey tax increment financing district to include the site.

But they postponed action on a proposed sales tax sharing agreement until further details of that could be worked out.

Related stories

Autobarn to seek tax breaks for Shure site

Autobarn owner plans to use old Shure site

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Concern about traffic and noise

    I am now concerned that this additional traffic and noise will be "offloaded" to our quiet neighborhood to appease the residents living in the more affluent Chicago Avenue corridor.

    Our property values could suffer significantly due to this move and this is something I can't afford. When the proposal was intitally proposed for remote storage only, I was a supporter. Now that it has shifted to a full service garage, I am opposed.

  2. and what if…..

    The Economic Development committee and two alderman may be trying to reduce noise or free up Chicago Avenue for some other development, but there are a few problemsthat their impositioncreates in trying to urge the Autobarn to move all service operations out to Hartery.

    First, as is indicated in the article, separating service and sales is not the norm and has often failed for numerous reasons, probably the potential of having a customer wander around the sales area while waiting for service, but more importantly the dupication of many staff and services, e.g., extra toilet room, secretarial and accounting personnel at two locations, etc

    Secondly, consider that at the present location service customers, if they are not waiting and want to drop off their cars, can then walk over to Main Street for CTA and Metra or walk over to Dempster for CTA. Over at the proposed Hartrey site they are in the Gulag. They might be able to walk over to Jewel , Best Buy, etc but how will they get to work or home?  Will Autobarn now have the added expense of courtesy vans and pick-up or drop-off service?


  3. About the site for servicing cars

    I don't see why the service operations can't be moved to some industrial area away from residential neighborhoods and schools.  Frankly, the people servicing these cars park all over the neighborhood on Hinman, barely stop at the stop signs, and in some instances drive like they are participating in a NASCAR event.  I guess that's their version of testing the brakes.  

    Can't the owner find someplace else to do the servicing closer to Route 41.  It's just a "quick and dirty" way to deal with the vacancy at the Shure site.  It's typical of the way decisions are being made here now with an eye on tax revenue rather than the safety concerns of long time residents in all the neighborhoods.  And the owner of Autobarn, of course, wants a "tax break".  This is ridiculous beyond description.

    1. all the had to do was….

      Unless I am mistaken wasn't there a parochial school that wanted the Shure property, but it required a zoning change or variance. The City fought them and won. Now the neighbors who might have not wanted school children get cars, machinery, noise, etc at hours well past school time and on weekends (Saturday, at a minimum), etc.

      So much for NIMBY

  4. Just extend the “Rainey Wall”

    When the shopping center was built at Howard & Hartrey,  Alderman Rainey did a great job of protecting the residential neighborhood immediatly to the east by having a 15 foot ( plus) stone wall with beautiful trees, vines and other floral growth built to keep the noise and traffic out of the area from Dodge west to Hartrey and from Howard north to the old Sure Property drive way.  If the city council insist that this wall be extended all the way north to the CTA Skokie Swift tracks, the neighbors problems are solved.  ( For those readers who have not seen what a beautiful divide this wall is (on the residential side, that is) take a drive by.

    As far as a good business decision by the auto dealership," truthferret" is correct.  When I purchase a car, I want to have easy access to public transportation when I need my car serviced.  This dealership just lost my potential business.

  5. Parking for trucks

    I live two blocks from the building and normally this is where I park my truck when I get home. Am I gonna have the same privilege when new owner takes over?

  6. To my Nimby friends

    Have any of you done an analysis on how much tax revenue was lost when Evanston Subaru moved to Skokie?  Companies get tax breaks all the time to stay in a community.   Autobarn has 3 dealearships.  If they were to go to Skokie, the tax revenues from the existing locations would go away as well.  the tax breaks are typically on build out and construction.  Sales tax from parts sales and services will stay in our community.   

    There will now be an opportunity for additional retail or mixed use spaces in the more densely populated Chicago avenue corridor.  

    Regarding people dropping off their cars and walking to public transit, maybe this move can serve as a catalyst for a new "El" stop at Dodge on the Yellow line.  (See a "Silver Lining")  

    In the end, the city could close car traffic on Shure Dr. west of Hartrey and force entry from Howard St eliminating extra vehicles on this residential street.  Keep it open for pedestrians walking to Dodge  however so they can get to the train!

    1. “L” stops? Retail-mixed use?

      Tax revenue from the sales of the cars probably exceeds that from service, but loss of sales, however small, as customers choose to go to dealerships that have accessible service departments also has to be factored into the overall equation.

      But as for a CTA stop at Dodge, it would seem you have not paid attention to what went on during all the debate as to a potential stop on the CTA Yellow Line (the Skokie Swift).  That decision was made last year and the station is to be at Asbury, Levy Center, etc not withstanding. Are you proposing to fund a new station to serve a single dealership that is nearly one mile from your proposed new Dodge stop?  Even now, we have no clear date as to the Asbury station construction and any other station would require massive public funds that do not, at present, exist and a large influx of potential riders. So,  should I anticipate that ten to fifteen years from now as the new Dodge station is unveiled, the Autobarn service mall at Hartrey will still be there? By then, the question might well be, will the Autobarn on Chicago still be there?

      As to retail mixed use on Chicago, the dealerships have been slowly moved out by food stores, but little else unless you go south of Main. Consider how many have been helped along by public susbsidy and not by market forces. A few years ago, there was rumor that the Mazda dealership would move to Skokie and that the building would be razed and a new condo plus retail would rise from those ashes. Does not seem to have occurred. Of course, look at all that mixed use happening at the south-east corner of Main and Chicago – there was more there when locals used it for walking pets, raising flowers, etc.  than now.  Must be that the office building-retail market is faring as well as the residential-retail market.

      1. Office and retail

        "Must be that the office building-retail market is faring as well as the residential-retail market."

        The office building – retail market in Evanston stinks. There is simply no demand for office or retail.

        Here is why:

        Office: We are millions of miles away from MDW and ORD.  Even Wilmette and Skokie have I-94. Evanston is hard to get to. Nobody is going to pay Evanston's high taxes to put an office in an out of the way place like Evanston, when they can get parking, freeway accesssability, and lower costs in Skokie or Highland Park or Schaumburg.

        Retail: Same problems as above. Old Orchard is near the freeway and has lots of land for parking. Who is going to go out of their way to come to Evanston to shop? And retail everywhere is getting crushed by Amazon and other online merchants.

        It's simple:  If we want business in Evanston, we need more people in Evanston. More people to eat at restaurants, shop at CVS or Trader Joe's or Target.  

        More residents in Evanston will encourage small offices:  dentists, lawyers, accountants….. to locate here.

        We also need to take advantage of our large pool of educated workers at Northwestern University.   Recent graduates will only stay in Evanston if they have affordable housing – not R1 single family detached homes costing $600k, but rental units downtown.

        This is why I strongly feel that Judy Fiske is a horrible alderman.  In addition to being a NIMBY, she has opposed more housing downtown, especially rentals, and she has spent decades fighting against Northwestern University.

        1. office and retail buildings

          I agree with you as to the office market, but if that is the case, why has the City encouraged the construction of such a building at the corner of Main and Chicago? It would appear that our Economic development folks including the group that want Autobarn to move much of its operations out of the strip on Chicago, have not been following trends.

          Keep in mind that for years they have pushed for housing along chicago even though the market had gone south  and because, with the exception of that yellow-brick building at Chicago-Main no one want to be in housig with trains directly alongside and behind their homes. Those who live within a block or two of the L and Metra combination eventually get used to the rumble of trains and the clatter of the CTA, but it is not as easy when they are alongside your building.

          Years ago the Development Plan for Evanston had downtown becoming a major office center with the intent that workers would not have to commute to the Loop. That failed although it did give us the 1800 Building and one or two others (the Helmut Jahn offices  that never seem filled). Looking around the downtown one gets the sense that no one wants residential either – whether they be developers or NIMBY's.

          If you believe that residential is the answer, why not contact the developers of the infamous Downtown Tower and ask why they have yet to start construction nearly five years after they received a zoning variance. All they accomplished, ironincally, is that they pushed out all those small business that you want to have in Evanston

          In the end it is all about cost. The cost of land and associated propoerty taxes. The cost of building including a lengthy zoning and permit approval process plus public hearings, objectionsand meddling by alderpersons. The cost of transporation or traffic, as you noted, into and out of Evanston, etc.

          Having just read on this site about how so very few NU students require grants-in-aid and, I suspect, how many get very well paying jobs upon gradution, your plea for lower cost rentals for this "disadvantaged group" falls on (my) deaf ears. If they are not staying in Evanston it is not the lack of affordable (for them) housing, they just want to hang around with their friends in Wrigleyville and Bucktown – assuming they stay in Chicago.

          1. Lots of office, retail, residential

            Not sure if I am following the meaning of this post correctly.    

            Truth is that all along Chicago Avenue from South Boulevard heading north multiple high density condo/apt projects have been built, every one of them right across the street from the el.  Not sure how one can state as truth that nobody seems to want to live or build there.

            Another truth is that Evanston probably has the largest most vibrant office market of any Chicago inner ring suburb bar none.  We may never become a huge-massive office market but we do pretty well even with our property taxes, etc. etc.  

            Didn't the Chase bank tower literally just sell at an even higher premium price?  Why would that be?  Something about the building being full of office tenants is what the buyers publically stated.  That doesn't quite jibe with the no office potential some people keep stating as an Evanston fact of life.   

            And when you say nobody wants residential downtown, does that mean developers don't want to build or people don't want to live here?   

            True the tower didn't get built or the Chicago/Davis proposal, but that was because of NIMBYs stopping one development and causing delays that pushed the other into the recession so financing was not possible to obtain. The city has now lost literally millions of dollars because of those NIMBYS.

            Again, truth is that Evanston has put more housing downtown than any other Chicago inner ring suburb bar none, and has done it with great success.  The north border of downtown is getting another development and I bet there are other proposals being considered for downtown right now. 

            Office/residential development should continue to be encouraged by the City, its seems to me that has been and will continue to be the successful trend that needs to be followed.

      2. “L” Stops

        Levy Center is just off DODGE. Dodge stop would also be closer to Dempster/Dodge Mall. Shopping on Howard  and Oakton.  I don't believe Buses run on Asbury but do on dodge

  7. Why?

    "Autobarn owner Richard Fisher says that at the suggestion of Evanston officials he's redesigned his plans for a new facility on Hartrey Avenue to include all the firm's service operations."

    Have any of these Evanston officials ever owned a car dealership? Who are they to suggest such a redesign to the owner/operator? He has trepidation, and has operated a dealership for some time, so he should know what he's doing before they suggest anything, right?

    "Committee members voiced support for the proposal and moved to recommend approval of a resolution supporting a property tax break for the project…They also endorsed plans to start the process of expanding the Howard-Hartrey tax increment financing district to include the site."

    Ah, there it is. They came up with an idea that they liked, and lured him to it with tax incentives.

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