Evanston Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, objected Monday to proposed tax relief for a local bakery planning to open on Central Street, arguing it might hurt other bakers in the neighborhood.

The owners of Hewn Bakery, which has operated on Dempster Street in Evanston for over six years, want to acquire a vacant and dilapitated 6,000 square foot retail storefront and and warehouse property at 1729-1733 Central to greatly expand their production capacity.

Central Street has a number of other bakeries, including:

Fiske suggested that Hewn might drive some of the others out of business.

But her protectionist sentiment didn’t carry the day.

Alderman Cicely Fleming, 9th Ward, said, “We live in a capitalist society and shouldn’t be trying to regulate what new businesses” are opening in the community.

Fleming added that she had supported plans for a car wash on Oakton Street in her ward even though it was directly across the street from an existing car wash.

Community Development Director Johanna Leonard said that generally clustering of similar businesses is beneficial to them all — making an area a destination for shoppers looking for such products.

And Julie Matthei, one of Hewn’s owners, said Hewn is very different from a lot of the other bakeries, because of its substantial focus on wholesale sales.

The bakery is seeking a Class 6b tax break from Cook County that would reduce their taxes on the property from the standard commercial rate of 25 percent to 10 percent during most of the 120year term of the agreement.

Hewn’s owners anticipate spending about $729,000 on repairs and upgrades to the building and calculate that the tax break would let them gradually recoup about $689,000 of the repair costs.

The would still end up paying an estimated $564,000 in property taxes during that time period — compared to a projected $62,000 if the building remains vacant.

Several other aldermen voiced support for the project and, after language encouraging local hirking was added, the resolution supporting the tax break was approved 7-1 with Fiske voting no. Alderman Eleanor Revelle, whose 7th Ward includes the new bakery site, was absent from the meeting.

Related story

Hewn seeks tax break for bakery expansion (8/1/19)

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Protectionism?  She’s

    Protectionism?  She’s objecting to the need to subsidize another bakery.  That’s not protectionism.  That’s letting the market decide.  

    1. Agreed – the tax break is protectionism
      Tax breaks are protectionism. Characterizing Judy Fiske as being anti-capitalist for this reason doesn’t hold water with me. It seems that the investment will lead to greater income, but is the area so dead that another party wouldn’t have come in and renovated the building at the full tax rate? 100+years for a tax break? Is this wholesale baker going to keep a retail front at this location? If so that makes it competition to a crowded corridor and the Alderwoman’s concern valid.

  2. And we shouldn’t provide subsidies either Cicely.

    Alderman Cicely Fleming, 9th Ward, said, “We live in a capitalist society and shouldn’t be trying to regulate what new businesses” are opening in the community.

    I TOTALLY agree with Ms. Fleming, BUT we also shouldn’t provide subsidies either.

    Subsidies have direct and indirect costs – some are understood, but the secondary and tertiary implications are usually ignored, not considered and rarely understood.

    If the legal business concept makes sense, and it’s able to operate sustainably in an appropriate regulatory environment, then the City of Evanston, Cook County, State of Illinois – that is taxpayers shouldn’t be subsidizing the business. That’s capitalism.

  3. 1 more sentence
    One or two additional sentences about the nature of the 6b break would have been really useful here. Is it a straight-forward incentive for capital investment? If so, why does it require a city council vote? Or is it something more nebulous that allows the council to distribute its favor to the right businesses? There’s not quite enough information here to tell if this decision was procedural or shady. And since absolutely everybody involved is getting re-elected regardless of the answer, I’m not going to bother to look it up myself.

    1. Bother

      Hi Casey,

      In case you change your mind, you can find much more information about the 6b tax incentives from the county assessor’s office here.

      If you wanted just a bit more, you could read our prior story, here.

      The decision about whether to grant the tax break is made by the county. But it won’t say yes if the city doesn’t recommend approval.

      In my recollection, all the 6b tax breaks that have gotten through review by city staff and have come before the City Council in recent years have ultimately been recommended for approval by the aldermen. I don’t have the time to document that today, though, and anybody who can remember one that was turned down is welcome to chime in here in the comments.

      — Bill


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