Evanston aldermen will be asked Monday to approve purchase by the city of the former Boocoo cultural center building at 1823 Church St.

In a memo to aldermen, City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz says that Boocoo’s developer and former owner, Daniel Cheifetz, had an estimated $1.2 million in debt on the property.

The building, which had housed meeting spaces and a cafe as well as music studio facilities, went into foreclosure and was acquired last month by Boston-based Capital Crossing.

A city appraisal estimated the property’s value at $315,000. Bobkiewicz says Capital Crossing has agreed to sell the building to the city for that price.

The property consists of a roughly 4,400 square-foot single-story buiding on a 10,000 square-foot lot.

Last year Jennifer Pritzker’s Tawani Enterprises acquired the 14,000 square-foot property at 1911-17 Church St., a block west of Boocoo, from Cheifetz for $442,500.

After demolishing the buildings on the site, last month Pritzker donated that property to Youth Organizations Umbrella for redevelopment as the non-profit group’s new headquarters.

Bobkiewicz says a number of community groups have expressed interest in operating social service and music programs similar to Boocoo at the Boocoo site, but each would have required city assistance to acquire the property.

He says Alderman Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, hosted several community meetings encouraging the groups to unifiy their efforts, but the groups haven’t agreed on such a solution.

The city plans to pay for the 1823 Church acquisition from its Economic Development Fund, with repayment to be made over ten years with from tax increment revenues anticipated to be generated by the West Evanston TIF District.

Bobkiewicz says the acquisition, in the short term, would “serve to stabilize the property and the Church and Dodge business district” which he described as being “in the early stages of revitalization.”

Two new businesses — Fatty’s Burgers & More and the C&W Market  and ice cream shop have recently opened in the 1900 block of Church.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. No Way!

    The city should not buy or retain any business or buildings not related to official business—in fact it should be reducing existing government office space.  The taxpayers are the ones who would 'own' the property and deals the council would make or purposes they would envision would only be a loss to taxpayers.

  2. And why can’t this be left to the private sector???

    Doesn't the high school have room to accommodate these activities?

  3. Most sensible solution yet

    Clearly, the community wants to support the BooCoo site – it wasn't sitting empty, it was simply not being managed appropriately.  I think creating a City-run site is the most sensible option.

    1. Let the Community Buy It

      The Organizations interested in using the building should gather funds and purchase it. As we have learned from experience the city is a poor landlord. Why remove another property from the tax rolls?

      1. Non-profit purchaser

        If, as you suggest, a not-for-profit community group were to buy the property it would in all likelihood end up being off the tax rolls anyway.

        — Bill

    2. Not all services provided by government must be money makers

      While I agree that the Evanston city manager must be mindful of the fiscal consequences of supporting programs and activities with a social or potential economic impact, we also have to remember that not all city/state or federal enterprises are meant to make money. Actually, some of them are in place even though they will lose money! The old Boocoo site is a great opportunity to bring programs and space that is safe for many at-risk youth in Evanston. $315K in a great price for that building, which includes many sustainable features in its design, and, if put in the right hands, may prevent future costs to the city related to something real but hard to measure in dollars and cents, such as reducing crime and helping kids stay in school. 

  4. Another crazy undefined scheme

    So if the Church and Dodge business district is in the "early stages of revitilazation" why does the city government need to buy this building that was sold to a private group last month? I'm sure there must be interested private businesses since this area is in revitilization.

    Why didn't the city buy it last month when Boocoo was in foreclosure?

    This is just another crazy ill-defined scheme by Wally and our city leaders to buy property, give money away and build patios with city workers for a private business.

    Whatever happened to the 1817 building on Church? In 2001, the city sold the building to the West Evanston Citizens District Council for $1 in order to turn it into an African American museum. Westside received a $200,000 HUD grant but the money disappeared and the museum was never completed. The city took it back in 2007.

    The city also bought two buildings around the corner from Boocoo about five years ago. One of those buildings was torn down. As far as I know, nothing has happened to these properties.

    The record shows Evanston city government has no business getting into the real estate business. But if taxpayers sit back unconcerned and apathetic then the business of reckless government spending and taxation will continue. You get what you vote for.

  5. City to Acquire?
    Didn’t the City say it wanted to divest itself of real estate (ie, Harley Clarke Mansion, Noyes Cultural Arts Center) or was that just last year’s fiction.

  6. Bobkiewicz says a number of

    Bobkiewicz says a number of community groups have expressed interest in operating social service and music programs similar to Boocoo at the Boocoo site, but each would have required city assistance to acquire the property.

    He says Alderman Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, hosted several community meetings encouraging the groups to unifiy their efforts, but the groups haven’t agreed on such a solution.

    Does anyone know which organizations these are?

  7. Time for an accounting of the economic development fund

    Is this the first time this is coming before the public?  Where has this been discussed in committee?

    The city government is not being run in the public interest, Wally and is council member friends are

    not doing their homework.  It appears far too much of city business here is being conduct in private.

    The coffee shop, now this – these are not economic development deals but potential raiding other city funds.

    Why the rush – on all these deals – the reason is simple – the quicker they are done, the are hidden and many items not discussed.  Wally about a year ago help an rule or ordinance he could move funds within the budget again with no discuss.  What is he doing? When a council member asked him if they would hurt the city budget if they cut the water fund increase to 5% – Wally did not answer her! The reality the entire  budget is a house of cards.

  8. Able to run a business ?

    I'm sure the Council has social workers, musician and artists coming out of every room in the city.

    But do they know how to run a business?

    We have seen that even those city employees were suppose to have business knowledge [e.g. city manager] have clearly not used economic or common sense. Why believe a social worker would have sense ?

    1. City Manager with business experience? Do not think so!

      Since Alderperson Burrus questioned the library board members qualifications – lets discuss a few of the councils' and Wally's qualifications.

      Wally has worked in government all his life, his training was in City Management – it appears to me he has NO real world experience in running a business.

      Several of the Council members who pretend they are fiscally responsible such as Colleen Burrus work for NU, also not  a true business. ( unless you want to consider its high fees it charges the students a profit center )

      Ann Rainey has been a council member for years – not certain what she has done in the real world.

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