Evanston aldermen Monday will be asked to give the city manager authority to negotiate the sale of the city parking lot at 1714-20 Chicago Ave. for a potential office development.

Assistant City Manager Marty Lyons, in a memo to aldermen, says the property has long been considered a possible redevelopment site — with ideas ranging from mixed use office and residential to performing arts and hotels.

He says that in recent months developer interest in an office project at the site has increased as the cty’s office vacancy rate has declined and the demand for Class A office space has increased.

Lyons says offices, or another acceptable use, would support downtown’s growing retail and restaurant businesses and would increased the city’s tax base, helping limit tax increases for all taxpayers.

The 32,000-square-foot lot now has 74 parking spaces and includes a solar powered charging station for electric vehicles.

City staff is asking for suspension of the rules to introduce and give final approval to the ordinance authorizing the negotiations Monday. That requires unanimous consent. A two-thirds vote by the council is required to approve an ordinance authorizing negotiation aimed at a sale of city property.

If the negotiations lead to proposed terms the city manager deems acceptable, another vote by the council would be required to actually carry out the sale.

It’s unclear at this point how much replacement parking for the existing lot a new development might contain.

The library has a small parking garage in its basement, and aldermen are also scheduled Monday to approve a $165,680 contract to make repairs there.

The city’s Church Street garage, across Chicago Avenue from the library lot, was developed in combination with the adjacent Evanston Place apartment building. That garage has had a high vacancy rate, but it has been more fully occupied recently.

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Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. That lot is pretty heavily

    That lot is pretty heavily used not only by library patrons but also by people going to restaurants in the area in the evening. Losing it could have a negative impact on those restuarants.

    1. I couldn’t agree more.
      I couldn’t agree more. Parking is at a premium. Let the developer find an empty storefront!

    2. library parking lot
      I agree with all the comments about how it is now a heavily used lot….and definitely NOT a good idea to sell it to developers….The library has scarcely enough parking spaces below the library with persons who don’t use the library parking there all the time. To do away with the lot adjacent to the library outside is making it next to impossible to get to the library for people with walking handicaps and there are many of us. …If the city insists on doing this then the city should build a new library in one of the areas next to “canal shores” and give us plenty of parking and more building space. Evanston could make a ton of money by repurposing the library building as it now exists. But we do need a working library that serves all people, includes parking, access via public transportation, more space, more computers, more books and better aesthetics….No sooner did the newest iteration of the main library get built than the space kept getting rearranged to serve the needs of the dominant population, in this case, children and computer users…So the architectural, physical beauty of the library has been wasted….not to mention that books, and a pleasant and inviting place to browse them, have become third class citizens.

    3. We need the tax dollars

      We need the development for tax dollars. Simply look at the un- and under-funded pension liabilities of the City and the answer becomes clear. I just hope the City doesn't let Northwestern buy it and then take it off the tax rolls. I love Evanston but the City and the State are a disaster. Very sad. 

  2. Library parking lot conversion…..

    And the increased retail growth…. Where is that, I wonder. I was in downtown Evanston recently. I saw no increase in retail business – only increased restaurant business. And it takes years to establish a viable restaurant. But I guess it's time to do even greater aesthetic damage to the Evanston cityscape.

  3. Is this claimed retail growth

    Is this claimed retail growth behind all the papered windows in downtown, Main St, and Central St business districts.  And what did the solar station cost us?

    1. Solar station

      The solar charging station was funded by a grant … and presumably it could be moved to another parking lot somewhere else in the city.

      — Bill

  4. Selling the parking lot will

    Selling the parking lot will inconvenience families with children, seniors, handicapped individuals, and the rest of the Evanston community who use the library and surrounding businesses. It's a bad idea.

  5. Please don’t. Losing that

    Please don't. Losing that many prime parking spaces near the stores and eateries that line Church Street and Chicago Avenue could have a major negative impact on their business. Parking is already a challenge in that part of town and that lot is almost always completely full every time I go to park there. Other than the most loyal customers, I fear many people will simply shop and dine in other more parking friendly areas, once they circle the block and find no open space. 

    1. Parking a block away

      I don't understand why the parking garage, 1 block east, is such an onerous alternative.  You just have to build a little more time into your trip to the library.  Parking is only a challenge if you insist on grade level parking.

    2. Historic buildings at risk

      The impact on our two historic and iconic Evanston buildings is a great concern. Are we lacking in multi-use buildings? Will the financial return be worth adding yet another building to our water front landscape? The Woman's Club of Evanston and the Frances E. Willard home are worth great consideration and value to our city. 

      1. Aesthetics

        Hi Jane,

        I'm curious why you are convinced the aesthetics of a surface parking lot are superior to anything that could be built adjacent to the historic buildings you cherish.

        Did you also prefer the surface parking lot that used to be across the street where the Church Street garage and the Evanston Place apartment building are now?

        — Bill

        1. Where’s the demand?

          Bill – I'm curious to why you think there is a need for more office space or mixed use space when so many of our office buildings and businesses downtown are vacant and unused? We have systematically eliminated the majority of the open spaces in our city – including lots that could have been turned into parks and are now apartment buildings, condos or highrises – and the manner in which development has proceeded has paid little to know attention to ensuring effective green and open spaces in our city not to mention no attention to establishing historic districts or perserving our landmarks. Yes, even a parking lot – one that provides short term parking for the handicapped, seniors, families and drivers of green/electric cars with convenient short term parking. How about we focus on sustaining our current businesses and enriching our city before we get greedy and cash in on ever last open space the city has left?

          1. Measuring demand

            Hi Tracey,

            Just posted a story about the demand for office space downtown.

            I disagree with your assessment of the impact of recent downtown development on the quality of life in the city. I think it's generally had a positive impact.

            I'd also like to see a gradual, well-planned increase in the number of people who have the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of living and working in Evanston.

            If we insist upon protecting every surface parking lot in town from development, that's won't be possible.

            — Bill


          2. Office space–former Research Park

            Things may have dramatically changed but I have to wonder if office space in "down-town"—not just the newly designated Expanded Northside "downtown" why 1890 Oak sat vacant for so many years and it seems from I've been told—by the few people I see coming out of those to the west of 1890 Oak], there is a lot of un-occupied office space–for years.

            Years ago people who worked downtown, east of Metra tracks, did not want to cross the CTA/Metra tracks even for lunch ["too far" instead of lack of business, restaurants, etc.].

            I wonder if that is still a problem—not wanting to walk.  I know a couple of restaurants on Chicago Ave. and  east said they think they survived because employees to the east did not want to walk west of Chicago Ave. and restauants Orrington and west said some went out of business because of too many restaurant Orrington to Benson.

    3. Parking lot needed

      Fully agree! People will go to Wimette and Winnetka where there are still retail options and not just restaurants. Parking there is relatively easy and free. Has anyone in our city government assessed available office space? Exactly how much was spent on charging stations and surfacing the lot in past 5 years? Lovely storefronts on Dempster and at Dempster and Dodge where neighbor's do not want a Goodwill store!

  6. Main Library Parking Lot

    What a terrible idea to turn the main library parking lot into an office building!  This parking lot is very heavily used; it is often impossible to find a parking space in the lot unless one simply waits for another driver to leave his/her parking space. 

    There is a reason the city parking lot across Chicago Avenue has such a high vacancy rate:  it is very inconvenient, and few people want to use it.  Does the City really think that parents with small children, the elderly, and the disabled are going to trudge in the snow and ice from the city parking garage to the library? 

    The surface lot adjacent to the library works very well for its intended use; the city should leave it alone and look elsewhere for tax revenue.

    1. Parking

      Since no proposal has been presented for what would be built on the site, it is perhaps premature to assume that it would not include public parking.

      B. George … if it turned out the new development included, let's say, 100 spaces of public parking — a third more than the current lot — and it was enclosed so people going to the library wouldn't have to trudge through the snow and ice in the existing parking lot — would you still think the city should look elsewhere for tax revenue and new jobs?

      — Bill

      1. Parking Hub Bub

        Bill, Thank you for shining light on the facts. The underutilized City Garage is RIGHT ACROSS THE STREET! And, I'm going to give Wally and our Civic stewards the benefit of the doubt that they would negotiate more and better public parking to any organization who may have designs on that plot. Finally, yes moving the solar structure is easily done (and methinks the developers would be wise to install new and faster charging stations in any new lot in town and while they are at it more protected bike parking too!). Respectfully, Brian G. Becharas Brian G. Becharas Energy Education Associates 619 Oakton St. Evanston, IL 60202 USA Personal e-Mail: Home/office 847.475.0319 Mobile 847.922.1114 Skype: brian.becharas Chairman: Transportation Task Force, Co-Captain – Green Mobility Planning Team Secretary: Renewable Energy Task Force, Founder: Sustain Evanston Congress CGE –

  7. Alternative Parking
    What about building some efficient public parking with some of the land?

  8. Rules Suspension in City Government
    My issue with this story comes from this paragraph: “City staff is asking for suspension of the rules to introduce and give final approval to the ordinance authorizing the negotiations Monday. That requires unanimous consent. A two-thirds vote by the council is required to approve an ordinance authorizing negotiation aimed at a sale of city property.”

    We suspend the rules A LOT and I’m not sure why we are doing it so frequently. We should follow the rules and suspension of the rules should be minimal. This is one of the reasons why Evanston residents feel like they only learn about things after they’ve been approved. With such busy lives, we all miss news cycles. We need to stop this seemingly regular practice of suspending the rules and get back to doing business for residents in the way the rules provide as appropriate. This would allow everyone time to get the news and voice their thoughts to their alderman on each issue.

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