Evanston’s City Council is scheduled to act Monday on requests for $650,000 in tax increment funding aid for the Soul & Smoke restaurant and $1.2 million in ARPA funding for the Rebuilding Exchange.

Soul & Smoke owners D’Andre Carter and Heather Bublick with their children.

Soul & Smoke owners D’Andre Carter and Heather Bublick say they plan to use the $650,000 to expand the restaurant space in the building they own at 1601 Payne St. from 1,500 to 6,500 square feet. They anticipate the expansion from carry-out-only to a full service restaurant will increase sales and liquor tax revenue to the city by about $250,000 a year.

The business now employs 25 full-time equivalent workers and the owners say they’ll add 10 more FTEs with the expansion.

The owners say banks generally don’t lend for restaurant expansions, and they can’t take on additional debt at this time because they’re paying the mortgage on the building they bought for $1.4 million in 2020 and had to spend $280,000 to replace the roof this year.

City staff says funding for the project would initially come from the nearby West Evanston TIF and be repaid by the new Five Fifths TIF that includes the Payne property, once that fund starts receiving property tax revenue next year.

A diagram showing the planned Soul & Smoke expansion project.

City staff is proposing that the grant include conditions that the restaurant owners not appeal their property taxes for five years, that Evanston residents have priority for job training opportunities, that local contractors are used to construct the project, that the city be reimbursed a portion of the grant if the building is sold within five years and that the city receive a portion of profits from a sale of the property within 10 years.

The total cost of the project is estimated at $1.47 million, with most of the rest coming from other government loans and construction financing. The city grant amounts to 44% of the total.

The city’s Economic Development Committee recommended approval of funding for the project last month on an 8-1 vote.

Site for new Rebuilding Exchange training center (Google Maps image).

The Rebuilding Exchange request has been scaled back from an initial ask of $2 million to $1.2 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds after the EDC decided the original ask was too big.

Aina Gutierrez, executive director of the Rebuilding Exchange says creation of the new job training facility in the vacant warehouse building at 626 Hartrey Ave. would connect 100 people to living wage employment, increase diversity in the building trades workforce and divert an estimated 1,500 tons of building materials from the waste stream.

The Rebuilding Exchange is the result of the merger last year of the Evanston Rebuilding Warehouse with the Chicago-based Rebuilding Exchange. It is headquartered at 1245 Hartrey Ave.

The organization anticipates raising $750,000 in foundation grants and a similar amount in a combination of individual donations and in-kind contributions to provide the rest of the funding for the $2.7 million project.

City staff is proposing conditions on the Rebuilding Exchange grant similar to those being requested for the Soul & Smoke grant.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Umm…. NO. Do we know what percentage of employees here are Evanston residents? What is this restaurant doing besides selling Overpriced Barbeque that is quite expensive for many residents of the community to afford? Not to mention the already high number of BBQ restaurants in that area… Definitely other things that could be developed in that area that benefit THE WHOLE community instead of just those able to spend $20+ on chicken wings

  2. No bank would touch this deal and the owners are already too deep in debt to take on additional loans. And the city thinks this would be a great use of scarce financing, better than any other opportunity out there. Bailing out a BBQ joint? Really? I smell a rat here, or at least some very irresponsible stewardship of funds.

  3. Great idea! Adding a restaurant will bring in revenue and create a more lively environment in the area. Who knows, maybe other restaurants/coffee shops will open around there. How is that bad?

  4. Carter Investments, Inc. (aka Soul & Smoke) received two PPP loans. One in the amount of $142,362 in Jan. 2021 and the other for $74,900 in April 2020. Both loans claimed to retain 38 employees. They should not be getting more $ for their own mismanagement of funds, or struggles (that most business face without bailouts). For anyone in need of a full-time job in the area, there are plenty of jobs available in Evanston that offer benefits, 401k etc. Just look online.

  5. I think Evanston should have learned a lesson last time they gave a restaurant money to expand. There are too many other pressing matters to spend money on. It’s a private venture let them get a bank loan.

  6. I don’t support the City of Evanston giving money to a private business. Taxpayer money shouldn’t be lining the pockets of business owners. Use that money to address our underfunded pensions or really basic stuff like public infrastructure (roads, bridges, sewers etc).

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