Evanston aldermen tonight will be asked to spend $97,500 to buy a foreclosed building at 717 Howard St.

That’s slightly less than the $100,000 the mortgage company that now owns the building paid to acquire it at auction more than two years ago.

717 Howard in an aerial view from Google Maps.

The 5,000 square foot lot has single-story retail building of less than 1,000 square feet, and — at least in an aerial view from Google Maps — what looks like a junkyard out back, which presumably accounts for the $2,750 in liens filed against the property by the city in recent years for property code violations.

The city has acquired other buildings on Howard in recent years that it has helped local business owners turn into the Ward Eight cocktail lounge at 629 Howard and the Peckish Pig brew pub at 623 Howard.

It’s still looking for a use for a building it owns at 727-29 Howard after the price tag to convert it into a theater proved too high for aldemen to stomach.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Before anymore purchases—

    The Council should first account for all the property they have bought.  Both status of loans, profits [including those from ALL rents charged on operating property, taxes, fees]  including what the ROI is including the 'opportunity' costs [next best alternatives to the investment, like selling to developers or companies who would purchase/operate without city funds, subsidies or tax deals].

    For too long the city use of land and buildings has operated like a slush fund with no public accountability.

      1. Business development and you can stay home

        No – the city is working hard at developing a neglected commercial district. If you had any business acumen, you would clearly see that the goal is to establish a sufficient number of businesses that can attract a steady stream of customers and change the local business environment.  Thereby, the city and neighborhood benefit from the added jobs, commercial trade, tax yield, and neighborhood stability. 

        As for your teetotalling, I believe you are a century out of date. 


        1. The city isn’t a great investor

          I think the comment about drunks would have been better made by saying the city investing in bars is a bit extreme.

          I understand your economic argument but the city has not demonstrated a good investment capability having made a variety of bad or suspect purchases along these lines. Some work but when they fail, it is significant. The theater on Howard is one case that comes to mind. We paid $1million+ but failed to properly inspect the building beforehand, then discovered it would require extensive renovations ($2million+) so killed the plan. Now we own a zero performing asset. The city should not be a direct investor but an enabler through governmental devices, such as with the many TIF districts. Even then, we should be stingy.

Leave a comment
The goal of our comment policy is to make the comments section a vibrant yet civil space. Treat each other with respect — even the people you disagree with. Whenever possible, provide links to credible documentary evidence to back up your factual claims.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *