Chicago-Main developer to get city aid

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.

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