City Manager Luke Stowe wants the city to spend $125,000 on a project to identify how to better utilize city-owned real estate.
The “Putting Assets to Work Incubator” is a project of the Government Finance Officers Association that maps government-owned property and assesses how it could be used to generate public revenue for community investment.
Stowe says the study might help the city figure out ways to fund decarbonization projects, like expanding electric vehicle charging options, and to help meet its housing affordability goals.
The City of Atlanta, Georgia, went through the program last year and a GFOA report indicates that — among other things — the program concluded that a vacant 19-acre Civic Center site there could be “revitalized with 1,300 new housing units, more than 500 of which will be affordable, as well as grocery, retail, a new school, and a revitalized civic center auditorium.”
The report says the site will continue to generate lease revenue for the city’s affordable housing initiatives through a 99-year ground lease as well as new property tax revenue.
Evanston has been struggling for decades to decide what to do with its nine-acre Civic Center property.
In December 2019 Evanston spent $129,000 to hire the real estate consulting firm Jones Lang LaSalle to conduct a phase one study exploring potential new uses for city properties.
In April 2020 the firm presented a report that, among other things, suggested that the city explore selling the Church Street parking garage.
It also noted that the Civic Center has nearly 115,000 square feet of space to house just over 160 employees — more than triple the space per employee that’s now typical for office buildings.
But at that time city staff recommended not moving ahead with phase two of the project with JLL, suggesting that staff members might be able to do some of the work internally.
In a memo to council members, Stowe says the city’s facilities unit maintains about 60 buildings, the parking division has four garages and 35 surface lots, and the parks department has over 300 acres of land on 97 sites.