Billionaire James Prizker’s plan to turn a lakefront home at 300 Church St. into a bed and breakfast goes before the Evanston City Council tonight.

Pritzker, ranked by Forbes magazine as one of the nation’s 400 richest individuals, is a manager of Evergreen Manor LLC, which, according to city officials, bought the property for $2 million recently and proposes to spend another $2 million to upgrade the Tudor-style home.

The building would have five guest rooms, plus a basement apartment for the on-site manager, who would be one of the two other managers of the LLC, Cathi and Dawn Overend.

The plans drew a mixed response from residents at a 1st Ward meeting last week, with some residents objecting to having a “mini-hotel” in a single family area while others said they believe it was a good proposal that would increase property values along the lakefront.

Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, said she didn’t believe the proposed arrangement, in which one of the owner-managers of a company formed to own the property would live on site, met the intent of the 1993 zoning ordinance that approved the B&B concept.

She said she believed it was intended “to let a mom and pop who lived in a house and maybe their kids were grown, to open a couple of bedrooms to allow people to raise a little extra money.”

While the city’s zoning code permits bed and breakfasts as a special use in single family zones, officials say that at the moment none have been approved to operate legally in Evanston.

After plans for the project raised some concerns among city staff about it having only three parking spaces, the proposal was rejected last month by the Zoning Board of Appeals on a 4-1 vote.

The aldermen tonight will be faced with a decision to either uphold that vote, or reject it and schedule a public hearing on the proposal at a later date.

Pritzker, 60, a member of the family that controls the Hyatt Hotel chain, is a retired colonel in the Illinois National Guard and is best known for founding the Pritzker Military Library in Chicago which awards an annual $100,000 prize for authors of military histories.

Less than a year ago he purchased a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed home on Sheridan Road in Rogers Park for $1.7 million.

Related document

Plans for the B&B submitted to the city (.pdf)

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. B&B in Evanston

    I think that Jim Prizker's plan for a B&B is a great idea — he will preserve a lovely home on the lake that may otherwise get torn down for a McMansion, or end up in the hands of NU and no longer contribute to the city's taxes.

    My husband and I travel extensively, and stay at B&Bs wherever we can, which is almost everywhere. They offer visitors another perspective on our community, a more friendly, personal one than staying in a hotel.

    It's about time Evanston has a nice B&B — they are in residential neighborhoods all around the US,  with no problem.

    We have stayed in wonderful ones in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Seattle, Denver, Palm Beach, Tucson, Boston, Camden Maine, it's a long list. But currently it's not an option for visitors to Evanston.

    I hope that the City Council sees this as an opportunity, and votes to approve what I'm sure will be a fabulous place to stay in Evanston, as well as a wonderful neighbor. Jim lives in the neighborhood, he's hardly likely to do anything detrimental!

  2. B&B in Residential Area?

    I read with interest the story about that beautiful tudor style home that I recall from my growing up in Evanston.  With all respect to the owners and the planned business, all I can say is that if I LIVED ON THAT BLOCK, I would be VERY upset.  Because B&B guests are for the most part, transients (tourists, if you will), there is always a risk of what kind of person will be there.  There is no way to control if a registered sex offender is checking in because it places him/her in a residential area.  It would be better to call it a boarding house, and accept REAL residents whose backgrounds can be checked against a criminal database with the local p.d., etc.  Still and all, I'd certainly resent a "business" in my neighborhood.  That's how blight starts.  It would be better to put such an enterprise in a pleasant, but business-y area…kind of like where the Georgian is located.  In Laguna Beach, there are B&Bs located in an area with other businesses, but the whole area is very quaint. The B&Bs are NOT in the areas where all are residences.  

    The coming and going of unknown persons is NOT a good way to go in a neighborhood.

    1. B&B in Residential area

      There were hookers using the Orrington to "entertain" their Craigslist fans. Last time I checked, downtown would not be considered "blight". The Orrington, Hilton, and Best Western are full of "transients" … No blight I can see …. However, if the city keeps running businesses out and refusing new businesses, blight just may be in the near future.

      I think we should have a contest as to which city council has lost the most potential revenue in one year … The Ponzi award would be a fitting reward ….

    2. The Margarita Inn

      The Margarita Inn is considered a B&B …. Not much blight in that area …. Should we run them out too to avoid scarring that residential neighborhood?

      Here is another target for your blight fight …

       Frugal Traveller

      1312 Madison Street
      Evanston, IL.

      Blight is just around the corner for that neighborhood too!!!

  3. I hope they say “yes!”

    I have stayed at many B&B's around the country and have enjoyed the residential settings (being located in a residential area is kind of the point!) and can think of no better location for one. Heck – I can envision a beautiful anniversary night for my husband and myself – right in my own town! Have a wonderful dinner downtown, a walk through the park and along the lakefront and a peaceful kid-free overnight stay. I hope the breakfast is good!

  4. Evanston never ceases to amaze.

    Wow. 5th Ward Residents have a trash dump they don't want, and not much support for what they do want, a new school. And look what the 1st ward residents get to fight about; a bed and breakfast. Must be nice.

  5. B&B plan a winner for Evanston!

    I'm with Nancy B – this sounds like a wonderful way to keep a gorgeous home in our lovely community.  The style of the home is not suited to modern family living, but it is perfectly suited to house visitors who come to Evanston. B&Bs around the world are successful and offer a wonderful alternative to hotel stays.

    I find the assertion that the ordinance (written 15 years ago) which was designed to "let mom and pop stay in the house a few more years by renting out rooms" to be absolutely absurd. That's not a B&B, that's a rooming house.

    My family used to stay at a B&B across the street from us on the 1300 block of Judson when they came to visit. We're not on Judson any more and they now stay at the Best Western. The B&B was much more pleasant, and Judson was and is a lovely street. I didn't even know the B&B was there – my mother found it thru a friend of a friend! So much for being disruptive of the neighborhood!

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