The vacant site of a failed condo project at Chicago Avenue and Main Street may soon see a new retail and office development.

Evanston’s Economic Development Committee Wednesday night voted to approve two $20,000 grants to the developer to help attract new businesses to the site.

The property had been home to a 1920s vintage, two-story retail/office development development that was demolished in 2007 to make way for a mixed-use commercial and residential building called Main Street Station condominiums.

But when the condo market collapsed, the developer was unable to make payments on its loan. Construction never began, and Cole Taylor Bank foreclosed on the property in 2008.

Last year the property was sold to OMS Evanston LLC for about $1.65 million.

Since then, Community and Economic Development Director Steve Griffin says, city staff has worked with the developer to find a suitable model for redeveloping the property.

Griffin says neighboring merchants had noticed that daytime foot traffic in the shopping district had decreased significantly with the demolition of the old building on the site and the construction of a condo development at the former bank and office site on the northwest corner of the intersection.

The merchants, elected officals and other stakeholders agreed that a mixed-use retail and office development would be the best solution for the site, Griffin said, noting that the close proximity to both CTA and Metra stations make for easy access to it.

The proposed new development would included about 90,000 square feet of retail and office space.

“OMS has engaged in predevelopment activities to work diligently to attract office tenants that range from health care providers to technology-based companies to the property,” Griffin said. “Additionally, OMS has recently engaged Colliers International to develop a marketing plan and presentation that includes preliminary schematic renderings of the proposed property.”

Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, said that before the project enters the city’s planned development process, the developer and the city will hold public meetings “to seek feedback on the design, materials and other building features prior to the first Plan Commission meeting.”

“This is an excellent opportunity for Evanston and the Main Street business corridor to attract new businesses and jobs to our community,” Wynne added.

The first neighborhood meeting about the development will be held mid-June. City officials say notice of the meeting will be provided to area residents, businesses and other stakeholders.

“We seek to work with the city and the neighborhood to create a high-quality building that enhances this key intersection,” said John O’Donnell, Managing Member of OMS Evanston LLC said, adding “We appreciate the city’s willingness to be a partner in this endeavor.”

Since the city seeks a partnership with OMS to deliver a development that meets the redevelopment goals of the city, the surrounding merchant district and the greater Evanston community, the opportunity to participate financially, Griffin said, will ensure that the city continues to have a role in this redevelopment effort.

OMS estimates that predevelopment efforts will cost about $400,000. The City’s financial contribution of two grants of $20,000 each would fund marketing and attraction efforts to bring tenants to the property.

The first grant of $20,000 will be used to pay for portions of the marketing materials. The Economic Development Committee recommended approval to City Council for the first $20,000 grant at its May 25 meeting.

The dispersal of the second grant of $20,000 would be contingent on a presentation on the progress of the project at the regularly scheduled September Economic Development Committee meeting.

The funding still requires approval of the full City Council, but since a majority of aldermen are on the Economic Development Committee, that approval is expected.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Better idea..

    Here we are, trying to add even more empty retail and office space to Evanston. Seems like every week I see a developer and the city play the same old song. I guess it shows that no matter the proximity of history we fail to learn from it. So here's a better idea for that site; build a:

    Children's Museum

    It's the perfect location for a museum:

    • Next to multiple public transportation stops.
    • In an established business area to provide for the ancillary visitor needs.
    • A large immediate clientele as it's 2 blocks from the Lincoln School.

    Come on Evanston.. Think creatively! Don't get stuck in the same old non-solutions.

    1. …because Evanston doesn’t

      …because Evanston doesn't have enough entities that are tax exempt.

      1. Why non-profit?

        A museum doesn't need to be non-profit. We have many examples of profitable entertainment businesses. Why do you assume a children's museum can't be one of those?

        1. If you want to talk about

          If you want to talk about "entertainment businesses," then you are correct – there are many options.  But you were talking about a museum – you specifically said "children's museum."  The two are not the same.  Good luck with your for-profit museum plan.

          1. Museums

            It works for the Creationist Museum in Kentucky. You can call whatever you want a museum these days. Don't be stuck in the box.

          2. For-profit works for the

            For-profit works for the Creation Museum, in Kentucky?  The one operated by AiG, the multi-billion dollar religious conglomerate?  Did you seriously just try to tell us the Creation Museum is a for-profit entity?  And while I'm at it, do you see any parallels between that organization and your proposed museum on that backyard sized parcel of land, on an Evanston, IL corner.  Yes – I need to escape this suffocating box of reality in which I live.  That piece of land needs to be taxed and so does any business that sets up shop on that corner.

    2. Children’s Museum its too late

      A children Museum in Evanston would have been a good thing to add to the community.  Its too late – when the Kohl Museum moved to Glenview the city should have acted to get it here –  too late now.

      A high quality children Museum would be good to attract the high quality families we need to move here,

      Your Mayor, council and Wally have all types of silly ideas – none of much value.  i can't wait for the bowling alley.

  2. Really?

    Do mean a Children's Museum just like the two others located within 12 miles of the site in Glenview (The Glen) and Chicago (Navy Pier)?  That sounds like a great idea. 

    1. 5 million per museum?

      What makes you think that 2 children's museums in the Chicago metro area are enough to serve its roughly 10 million residents? Just like the local theaters brought much new business to downtown Evanston, a museum would do the same. We just don't need more unused office space in the city. Just like the close to 500 condos for sale in the city we are overflowing with vacant retail and office space. We need reasons people want to come to Evanston other than just to work in an office.

      1. There are others

        There are more than two children's museums serving the Chicago area market including ones in Naperville, Oak Park, Oak Lawn, Chicago (Bronzeville), and Frankfort.  Maybe there are others… I don't know.  I do know that the DuPage Children's Museum in Naperville could no longer pay its mortgage, so the City bought it and now leases it back to the museum.

        While I'm not a market expert on children's museums, I don't think many people in Evanston and nearby communities are feeling underserved by the Kohl Children's Museum in Glenview and the Chicago Children's Museum at Navy Pier.  I think those two, which are pretty close to us, are also generally recognized as two of the largest in the area.

        To be clear… I'm not opposed to a children's museum here or something similar.  I just don't think there is a real market for it.  If one would work, then great.  All I want is to see is something there that will activate corner and brings business to that neighborhood. 

  3. I am waiting for people to start raising concerns…

    … about the parking problems that mixed retail and office at this location would create.  If this was effectively used as an issue by the anti-Kilt movement (which had hundreds of parking spaces available in a structure a block away), I can only imagine what a deal-breaker it should be at Main-Chicago, where parking is much more scarce.

  4. Aid to Developers?

    So, OMS Evanstons LLC purchases a foreclosed property for "about $1.65 million"… Didn't they have a plan? Why are taxpayers being asked to pony up money for risk they were willing to take?

    When are our leaders going to learn how to say NO!

    Respectfully submitted, Brian Becharas (or, just another taxpayer who is running out of money to live in this community)

    1. Developer aid makes sense

      Hey Brian,

      The aid to this developer is a drop in the bucket, and makes good business sense from the city's standpoint.

      That corner lot is vacant and is netting little tax revenue to the city. If there is a development of mixed use there it will attract new businesses and consequently increase the city's tax revenue.

      Simple math, Brian –  – more commercial tax revenue equals less tax burden on property owners and more jobs.

      The only caveat is whether the City Council will make the difficult decisions of cutting the budget this year rather than spending more money on the duplicative Evanston Township Assessor's Office or a new 311 Call Center with 20 new union employees. 

      1. The aid makes sense.. The developement doesn’t…


        Yes, helping in the initial stages of such development makes sense from a return on investment perspective. But why do we need to encourage more of the same mixed-used new space that is already readily available? How will such a development attract businesses more effectively than the existing, and established, spaces do? We are more likely to end up with even more empty spaces. Unless you somehow can foresee some dramatic upswing in businesses that no one else can in the near future?

  5. Hotel for S. Evanston, anyone?

    I think this town really needs another hotel and I think a good use for at least part of this space would be some kind of small boutique-y inn. People are coming in from out of town to see shows at SPACE and it would be great to encourage them to stay someplace nearby so they could walk to and from the show–that would increase foot traffic for the local businesses as well! Someplace like the Moonrise in St. Louis, which helps business in its neighborhood:

    1. Wasn’t there a hotel in south Evanston ?

      I seem to recall a hotel at Forest and Main up to the 1970s that was replaced with condos.  Correct ? Was it too old, un-profitable ?

  6. Eric

    You haven't been to the "museum". Yes, the religious organization running it may  be "non-profit" in the sense that they don't pay shareholders or principals profits (which opens up the matter of compensation for AiG people and other related church-like ventures), but the museum is designed less to spread their message and more to generate money. If you haven't been, you wouldn't understand. Regardless…

    Any museum like a children's museum or an entertainment venue that sets up at Main & Chicago should be taxed While the weight of interpretation of the freedom of religion clause would say that the two museums are different, I'm saying they aren't. In a discussion about any entertainment venues that are placed at Main & Chicago, I agree that anything there should be taxed, up to and including the wildest extreme, which is why I referenced the Creationist Museum. Children's museums are just really nice private indoor parks, and the Creationist Museum is a really huge intentionally pointed non-intellectual discussion of history. Both exist for consumers to use to entertain themselves, and both should be taxed. Children's museums don't further society any more than parks do, and the Creationist Museum, while talking about religion, doesn't actually contribute to any religious discussion or thought of any kind. 

    The previous post wasn't well explained, but I'm pretty sure we are in agreement that the land must stay on property tax rolls. 

    One thing you did forget though, a building could be built that houses a children's museum that still pays property taxes, as it would be the ground floor of a multi-story building with mixed office use above? Different conversation. 

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