Evanston aldermen tonight are scheduled to vote on buying and demolishing two bank-owned properties that were once part of the site for the rejected Darrow Corners low income housing development.

The two two-flat buildings at 1708 and 1710 Darrow Ave. were acquired by the Housing Opportunity Development Corporation in 2005 for a total of $600,000 with mortgages totalling $480,000 held by First Bank & Trust of Evanston.

HODC planned to combine those two parcels with the vacant lot on the northwest corner of Darrow and Church Street that once held a gas station and build 27 units of low income housing on the roughly 16,000 square foot site.

While some neighborhood residents supported the project, others — including owners of adjacent commercial property and owners of small rental buildings in the area — opposed it.

The City Council ultimately rejected the plan on a 5-4 vote in May 2006.

In the years since, the two buildings have been boarded up, but repeatedly broken into and damaged by squatters.

HODC failed to make mortgage payments. First Bank & Trust filed a foreclosure suit in March 2009 and acquired title to the properties last month.

Community and Economic Development Director Lehman Walker says the bank has produced appraisals estimating the value of the two properties at $120,000 each and has agreed to sell each to the city at a $10,000 discount, for a total of $220,000.

Walker says the staff proposes using West Evanston tax increment financing district funds to pay for the purchase, in hopes of later finding a developer to create a mixed-income, mixed-use project on the site.

Update 10:30 a.m. 6/15/10: Aldermen Monday night voted unanimously to approve the purchase, although Alderman Coleen Burrus, 9th Ward, said she was concerned about taking property off the tax roles and the anticipated long delay in redeveloping the site. More details here.

(Image courtesy Google Street View.)

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. City considers buying failed development site

    I do not understand why the City want’s to rush in were wise men fear to tread!

    The buildings should have been condemned by now and bulldozed, but let the market place, even with incentives from the City if necessary, take on the redevelopement of the land.

    Evanston has enough places it needs to spend money; sewers, roads and trying to decied about public indecency.

  2. City Considers Buying…

    I am not sure I understand the why the City would consider the purchase of these 2 properties. I thought that was the purpose of the NSP2 grant.

    Is the City competing with itself and the NSP2 program at the same time it has been forced to lay off many long time employees and reduce services?

    1. Why not NSP2?

      The city staff memo recommending the purchase says the federal "NSP2 program does not include provisions for holding property longer than the term of the NSP2 grant period."

      The grant period runs three years from last January … so it would seem staff is not confident anything will get done with the site in the next 2.5 years.

      The other possible source of funding mentioned in the memo, federal HOME funds, is even more restrictive, requiring that a project be started within 12 months.

      — Bill


  3. Darrow Corners

    This current development of the Darrow Corners issue has bypassed the City of Evanston’s Economic Development Commitee and is going straight to Council.  Consideration of use of funds for Evanston’s TIF Districts should be discussed first at Council’s sub commitees, the purpose of which is to hone a more developed understanding and or consensus BEFORE Council consideration.   Besides,  7 of the 11 members of the Economic Development Committee are city aldermen, so let’s use the committees for the purpose they are designed for. 

    Although I understand the dilemna my freinds at First Bank and Trust face with this foreclosure (and may I add as a satisfied customer, one of the lowest foreclosure rates of any bank in Illinois and one of the few banks that are gaining market share of deposits in Evanston), I’m not so sure the city should act too quickly on purchasing land and "hope" values pick up some day.  Let’s leave that to investors in the market place.  After all, its those investors that will determine when this property is ultimately developed.  Lets advertise that the city is wiiling to assist potential buyers through grants and TIF monies instead of becoming the actual investor.  Since I have no opportunity to debate the issue, other than last minute at the city council meeting itself, I’m expressing my personal opinion as a business person, resident, Chamber Board Member and At-large-member of the Economic Development Comittee.

    Thank you.  I would like continue to offer help in anyway I can to help West Side and all other neighborhood development in the city of Evanston. 

    1. Darrow Corners Cont’

      I may have jumped the gun somewhat as I was informed that tonigt’s Darrow purchase topic is merely introductory, but I still believe these items, even at this stage, should be introduced at the committee level and not at council.  Our council meetings are very long and time consuming.  In defense of our alderpersons and city staff, they spend many hours in and out of meetings on all city matters, so any pre-work in committee will keep our council meetings less hectic and more on-point.

      I was going to speak tonight on the matter, but I decideed to reserve my comments for later since there will not be a vote.  I have some different ideas on how the city can help the neighborhood without doling out  $240k in TIF monies, and possibly even get First Bank & Trust more $$ for their forclosed asset.  After getting input from 2 alderpersons before council convened,  I am going to review any dialogue that comes from tonite’s city council meeting, reshape my ideas and then share them with Alderperson Holmes and First Bank & Trust…….Stay Tuned Please

  4. Darrow Corners

    I like the idea.  The Council should approve this and demolish these blighted properties.  Then it will be easier to entice a developer to come in and finish out the corner.  If NSP were available for this, that would be great, but I don’t believe it can be used for new construction.  This seems like an appropriate use of TIF.  

  5. City considers buying failed development site

    I completely agree with Mr. Mennemeyer  and the two currnent anonymous entries – Why does the City want to insert itself into this failed development project?  With a large running deficit, purchases like these should not even be on the table!  Please spend our money more wisely! 

    Thanks, Brian G. Becharas

  6. Evanston aldermen are about to make another fiscal blunder

    Buying these two properties would be fiscally irresponsible.

    With declining tax revenues, the city has had to cutback, including the closure of branch libraries. And now the city wants to spend $220,000 to buy foreclosed properties and then what? Maintain it? Take on the liabilities that go with owning it?

    If Evanston has $220,000 to blow why not keep the north branch library open? Keep in mind, the money the Housing Opportunity Development Corporation spent on these properties came from  taxpayers.

    Meanwhile, 1817 Church is a stark reminder of the wasteful spending by aldermen. Evanston bought the building for $175,000 about 10 years ago. It then GAVE it to a special interest group along with $200,000 grant money to build a museum. In 2007, city officials saw nothing had been done to the building and took it back.

    Since that time, aldermen have been looking for someone to GIVE the building to. Now aldermen have the gall and audacity to buy two more foreclosed properties and hope to find a developer? Why not let a developer buy it from the bank and try to work with the developer?

    But aldermen are proposing to buy the properties despite the city’s dire economic condition. Something about that not only makes no sense but it doesn’t smell right. I can’t help to wonder what kind of relationship First Bank & Trust has with those on the Council?

    Does anyone really think next year the city’s budget will be any better? For the past three years in this severe recession, which we are still in, property values have declined as property taxes increased.

    I hope Evanstonians are outraged by this mere suggestion to buy these proeprties and take action. The best course of action is to mobilize and prepare for the next election and send a wave of new, fiscally responsible and sensible citizens to the City Council.

  7. Long History of Incompetence

    The Council has a long history of incompetence when dealing with complex financial matters.  The Police and Fire Pension and the Early Retirement Incentive are obvious examples.  Purchasing this failed development will continue their extraordinary record of incompetence.

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