“Independent” and “unique.”

Those are two of the words that Angela Shaffer uses to describe Evanston’s Central Street Business District.

Shaffer is the Central Street marketing group’s first full-time executive director, and as part of that role, she’s overseeing a rebranding effort for one of the community’s major retail and dining corridors.

What makes Central Street special, Shaffer says, is that “we have independent businesses with all these different personalities.” There are more than 200 stores, shops and restaurants along the business core.

The rebranding campaign, which includes a community survey on what Central Street is now and can be in the future, aims to re-emphasize what’s working, and find ways to make it even better.

Some of the survey questions include how often the respondent visits, and if you were to plan a Central Street visit for a friend who had never been there, where would you take them?

“There’s so much you can do here, and it’s walkable,” Shaffer says.

Once the survey is completed, along with focus groups, the expectation is to start putting up banners in the summer, along with various community programs and public art, “all capturing what the district has to offer as well as its future story,” Shaffer adds.

Also possible when the weather warms up, newly colored stripes on the sidewalks. Those stripes were painted last summer, as part of a JOY on Central effort to cheer people up during the pandemic.

Sidewalk stripes from JOY on Central project.

One goal is to make neighbors and visitors aware of the entire business district, which Shaffer says actually has three components … east of Green Bay Road to the Evanston Art Center, west of Green Bay to Independence Park, and then west of that to the Mitchell Museum.

“We have these two amazing cultural institutions that anchor our district,” Shaffer says, and the hope is to include awareness in the rebranding effort.

The park is also a central part of the Central Street district. Renovating the park is also part of the rebranding effort, with the chance for community input in the fall, to help determine what’s next.

Survey response, Shaffer says, has been “amazing” so far. “Central Street is truly loved by its surrounding community.”

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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