Evanston’s Economic Development Committee is scheduled to vote Tuesday evening on a plan to provide financial support for existing small businesses.

The program, as proposed by city staff, would provide grants up to $25,000 per business and $10,000 for owners of properties leased to local businesses.

Initial funding for the program is proposed from the city’s Business District Improvement Account, which has an annual budget of $250,000 and also funds other projects.

Economic Development Specialist Katheryn Boden, in a memo to the committee, says preserving small businesses “is critical to maintaining Evanston’s unique character and cultural identity.”

She adds that so much attention is focused on new business openings that existing businesses facing an increasingly competitive retail environment don’t get enough appreciation.

And, she says, it’s much easier to retain an existing business than to attract a new one to fill a vacant space.

The new proposal is patterned on the Legacy Business Registry & Preservation Fund in San Francisco that provides grants and promotion to long-standing small businesses there.

San Francisco’s program provides grants of up to $50,000 to businesses and $22,500 for property owners. It is said to have helped more than 230 businesses and nonprofits since its creation in 2015.

The Evanston city staff is asking the committee to consider how long a business would have to have been in operation to qualify for the program and what other standards a business would have to meet.

The funds, the memo says, might be used for “rent stabilization, upgrading physical space and/or acquiring modernized capital equipment.”

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. I wish the city would stay out of subsidies for business and focus on the traditional role of government -crime, roads, helping the less fortunate. Businesses that have something to offer will make it. It’s not fair to help some and not others.

  2. I strongly disagree with just subsidizing existing business. It is imperative that the City make it attractive for new businesses to come here. It attracts demand from out of towners to spend money here, it makes it more attractive to young (TAX PAYING) families to move here. Evanston is not an attractive place to do business right now, despite its great location and consumer base.
    Evanston seems just completely out of touch. They say it’s hard competing with Old Orchard and downtown Chicago. Why are we trying to compete?
    You know who doesn’t struggle to compete with downtown Chicago? Neighborhoods like Andersonville, Lincoln Square, Wicker Park, Logan Square… These places have amazing restaurants and boutiques.
    As for old orchard, who wants mall brands to fill all the empty space downtown Evanston? This is an upwardly mobile community with distinguishing tastes. Lets be mindful of bringing in interesting and unique businesses here and not just mall brands, steak houses or god forbid ANOTHER massive Northwestern Hospital building.
    As for taking care of the less fortunate. The less fortunate cant take care of the less fortunate and are not main source of tax revenue for the city. We are going to be able to more good for the less fortunate with a thriving downtown, a strong tax base and low crime rate.

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