Evanston city workers last weekend finished brickwork for a patio for the Peckish Pig restaurant on Howard Street using bricks recycled from downtown sidewalks.

Officials say the city — which owns the building — undertook the project after the restaurant owners were unable to find a qualified private contractor to do the work.

At least 10 city workers and nine city vehicles were at the Peckish Pig project Saturday afternoon.

Economic Development Division Manager Johanna Nyden says the city crews worked outside of normal hours — one or two evenings and then two or three Saturdays — starting in mid-July to complete the project.

Nyden says the initial cost estimate to have the city do the project was $16,000 — but that final figures haven’t been calculated yet.

That appears to be a very favorable cost estimate, since a landscaping website estimates the cost of brick patios at $12 to $25 per square foot. The restaurant’s patio area totals roughly 3,000 square feet, which would work out to a cost of $36,000 to $75,000. How much of the patio was surfaced in other materials couldn’t immediately be determined.

Some work remained to be done on the patio this morning.

City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz says that since the restaurant was having difficulty getting the work done, “I decided it was in the best interest of the city’s ownership of the property to get the patio up and running.”

Nyden said Peckish Pig’s owners will be billed by the city for the work, but she wasn’t clear on whether they would be paying for it this year, or only if-and-when they exercise an option in their lease to purchase the property.

In its effort to stimulate economic activity on Howard Street, the city last year spent $200,000 of tax increment financing funds to upgrade the building at 623 Howard Street that now houses the restaurant.

The front of the restaurant today …

The city also agreed to let the restaurant owners buy the property after four years for its $475,000 appraised value before renovation plus the $200,000 in TIF funds. The agreement also provided free rent on the property for the first 18 months of the five-year lease term.

… and what the building looked like before the city bought it (Google Maps image).

The City Council voted to authorize Bobkiewicz to negotiate details of the lease and the TIF agreement. Those agreements were signed in March 2013.

The new deal for the patio was not brought before the City Council for approval.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Fire Wally B.

    Holy guacamole, Batman!

    Are we to believe the Peckish Pig owners could not find a contractor to put in the patio? And city crews, on our tax dime, worked evening and weekends, overtime pay no doubt, to install a 3,000 square foot patio for a PRIVATE BUSINESS!!!!

    Did you pay your property taxes Aug. 1? I bet it went up from last year. This is just another example in Evanston how your tax dollars are spent.  The Peckish Pig owners get 18 months of free rent and $200,000 from our tax money to buy the building?

    I am all for development even to SPARINGLY use sales tax discounts to attract NEW BUSINESSES to town but this is beyond the pale. This is wrong very wrong..Evanston needs to lower its taxes and make it easier for ALL existing businesses and attract new ones.

    This government favoritism is wrong just as the mayor's single-minded decision to grant DMK Burgers a liquor license but deny its competitor on the same street, D&D Hot Dogs a liquor license. 

    Evanston needs a new direction. We need to vote out of office all aldemen and the mayor, and fire Wally B.

    1. I agree. I’d like to open a

      I agree. I'd like to open a business on the city's money. Of course, Northwestern, gets the same deals.

    2. the 51st Ward needs a slogan for the next election

      Anon. Al is so very much on point.  For the next aldermanic and mayoral election, we need to have lawn signs made that simply state "IF YOU'RE IN, YOU'RE OUT!  Our city council and the mayor are actually surpassing the audacity of the elected officials directly to our South. 

      1. Great slogan

        I'll take one of those signs! "If You're In, You're Out!" Shame on us for electing ineffective and weak public officials. Who thinks that a pet store owner or a graphic designer are qualified to run our city? It's not working. How do citizens demand that the city manager be fired? He is out of control and trampling the weak mayor and council. I Googled Wally and saw that his previous town had a parade when he left. I'd be happy to organize that parade here.

    3. I love the Peckish Pig, but…

      I love the Peckish Pig and am all for the development of Howard St. but I have to agree Wally – this seems like a stretch!! 

    4. Read the article!

      Stop all the complaining and read what the article says:

      1) City Owns the Property, Peckish Pig is a tenant.  The capital improvement to the property uses old material that the city has and that is why it was less expensive than a private company.  The Peckish Pig has a property buyout clause in their agreement with the City.

      2) The Peckish Pig will pay for the installation.  City gets its money back and a thriving, income producing establishment can seat more people and more city revenue.

      3) The area (Howard Street) is blighted and The City is doing what it can to reverse course

      4) All the loans The City has provided are being paid as agreed and coming out ahead… the only exception is Chicago Chicken and Waffle.

      5) Our local government has made some pretty stupid decisions IMO, but trying to revitalize neighborhoods is a good risk that can pay off if done right.  Culver (big business) request would be a bad choice… Peckish Pig (local business owner) property is good.  D&D decision good… etc…

      6) Your BIG property taxes are big because of our school systems, not city improvement plans, and last I checked 65 and 202 are top public schools that rival others in the country… and yes, that is worth every penny.

      7) Stop whining about everything unless you actually have constructive alternatives.

      1. Ok

        I believe you can read but can you think. A bar on Howard is like a fox in the hen house. Howard is known for its drunks and crime. The Pig will contribute to this.

        The city has probably nearly doubled the value of this building but the city will be selling the building  for half the value. Instant profit for the Pig.

        Based on Wally's babbling mouth, you must assume that there was no written agreement with the Pig for the patio. He didn't even know when the city will be reimbursed but the city must pay their employees for their overtime and double time work. Wally was not even sure how much the amount will be. Will Wally collect interest on the payment due from the Pig.

        Wally claimed that the Pig could not find anybody to build the patio. Does anybody want to buy a bridge?

        There is a real possibilty that someone could be in legal trouble because of Wally's scheme.

        • The city of Evanston is now in direct competition with other bars in evanston.
        • The city of Evanstion is in competition with local contractors.

        I agree with AnonymousAl. Our city government is out of control. The mayor needs to go. Many council sheep need to go. Wally needs to be fired for cause, no severance.

      2. Yes, I can read and think

        1) The article did NOT say the city already had the brick material. And if the city did, that brick could and should have been used for public purposes. The quote for the 3,000 sq. foot patio was $16,000. I highly doubt that would cover the labor cost since city employees were probably getting paid overtime and there were 10 workers at a time..

        2) Is there an amendment in the contract to pay for this capital improvement that is at least $16,000?  The article did not say. It did say the city would bill the restaurant at some time in the future or "only if-and-when they exercise an option in their lease to purchase the property." That does not sound definitive. What if they don't exercise that option? This is OUR money Wally B. that you and the city are playing with. And who in their right mind believe the excuse that the Peckish Pig owners could not find a contractor for the job? This co-mingling between city services and influence with private businesses is a recipe for fraud and corruption. Where's the oversight in all of this? How come the Council did not approve of the patio installation? That's a real big concern and possibly an ethical violation. If the city is going to bill the owners then isn't that an implied contract. The city promises to install a patio with its own labor and materials and the restaurant promises to pay the city. And the Council didn't know anything about it. They'd better address this issue in public.

        3) Yes, the area is blighted on BOTH SIDES OF HOWARD STREET!! As Evanston buys up property and spends tons of our money to rehab them for private businesses and non profits what is the City of Chicago doing on the south side of Howard? Shouldn't there be a joint effort? How can you "reverse course" only on one side of the street? Ya think, we're stupid?

        4) Of these seven loans, the Peckish Pig is far by the largest at $675,000. And the restaurant hasn't started paying off the loan yet since it hasn't opened. Time will tell but if the restaurant defaults, and most do, it will be a big default. And don't forget the city has been gobbling up property, much of it still vacant.

        5) There are many factors that play into neigborhood revitilization. A big one is crime. Another is attracting people with moderate to high income, which means new residential development. Many folks in the area have seen their condo values decline tremendously. In my opinion, Howard street needs a new condo or luxury rental buildings and desparately needs private investors. I don't see that happening. The police outpost is good. But you need residential development, private investment and cooperation from Chicago. Maybe it will work but I think the odds are against it since many people in the area are still underwater and don't have much income to spare. Most importantly, people need jobs and businesses that are growing are not doing so in Illinois since the state keeps raising its tax rate and is not competitive with other states such as Texas.

        6) Yes, the majority of property taxes go to D202 and D65 but 19 percent goes to the city. That's no chump change. And some of the taxes get tied up in TIFS, putting more of a tax burden on us.

        7) Constructive alternatives = lower the city tax rate, stop threatening or requiring developers for set aside affordable housing. Eliminate some of the numerous and duplicative city social services. Elimninate fees such as the $10,000 teardown fee to build a new house. Reduce other fees and fines and reduce the water rates.  Offer tax incentives to developers and watch them compete to build in Evanston. Make it easy for a new business to open in Evanston rather than going thru numerous hoops all the while hope the city doesn't give some kind of government benefit or incentive to an existing competitor. Campaign to truly reform government union pensions such as switching existing pensions to a 401k plan. Privatize city services such as fire and sanitation. Finally, go out and attract new businesses and don't rely on giving government incentives and benefits to those already here. 

        1. ‘Pay for it and they will come’

          The Council seems to have modified the line from "Field of Dreams" '…build it and they will come…' to 'finance it and they will come', 'pay for it and they will come', 'give them a gift with no recourse and they will come [i.e. no recovery if they fail or are un-profitable].'

          They keep coming up with ideas that don't work but they think if they keep pouring out taxpayer money one of these days 'something will work.'  Meanwhile Evanston taxpayers continue to suffer from all this waste. The problem with Howard street is not just the Evanston side but Chicago and what lies south of Howard.  Probably the most successful business to go in that area was Eduardos—and they are long gone.

          The least the Council can do is require a 'business plan' that is submitted to an independent/respected audit firm and an air-tight contract from the operators that their bankruptcy won't let them out of.

      3. How did you know about the brick? ( I can Read)
        The fact the city wants to charge the Peckish pig – 10 cent a brick was not in Bill’s story, so who are you, are you connected with the City? By the way the reuse of brick from downtown is not a big environmental savings,as the city spins – first someone had to remove the brick put it on pallets and haul it away, the city then stored it, and final it was brought back out to the site. Hardly a cost savings, the low price is not anywhere in line – with the cost taxpayers paid for the brick.

        By the way I have talked to two council members and they knew nothing of this- there also is nothing in any packet. – So who at the city knew about this? Who approved this work?

        Those here who want to excuse us of whining – I have a constructive alternate -follow the correct process – the Peckish Pig should be paying the FULL COST of this work – and it should have been reviewed at Council – the public has a right to know how our money is being spent.

  2. The city is being a good landlord

    I hope the vitriol is due to the anonmity of the internet because this seems was a perfectly logical task for a landlord.

    As the text points out – the cost of the improvement to the city owned property will be billed to the lessee. This is the same deal that I would get from the private company that I lease office space from. So what if the cost is not immediately covered by the lessee – the improvement to the property enhances its value and can be recouped in later leases or through sale. 

    And if you cannot handle the math – the $16k estimated for the improvement is only 2.4% of the value of the property. 

  3. If only Joe Sixpack taxpayers got such deals !

    The article said:

    "The new deal for the patio was not brought before the City Council for approval."


    This in itself is grounds for dismissal !  How can a city official do this ?

    Taxpayers pay, the Council man gets votes—and hopes he keeps getting elected before it goes under.

    Do we have a top to bottom accounting of all the city "funded" [read "gift'] deals ?

    What happens to the expected TIF income if [and have they] go out of business ?

    Talk about shady deals. Even in Chicago some person in power or Inspector at least points out these kinds of deals—even if they can't get the votes to charge.  In Evanston the silence is deafening.

  4. The irony continues

    Trader Joe's got a sweet deal from the city and they managed to build a nice brick paved parking lot.

    Now Peckish Pig gets a nice brick paved patio, too.

    This time around it's even more insulting as it comes from the taxpayers' pockets of having paid for all of this beautiful brick sidewalk work downtown only to have it ripped up and replaced with already ugly gum-pocked cement slabs.

    Maybe we can tear out the new lighting along Davis St and install it in this likely-to-be-sold off property for the current lessees to have as well?

    Does anyone believe the city manager has the citizens' interests first?

    1. Trader Joes Parking Lot

      The land Tradr Joes Parking lot is on. Is owned by the City. They purchased Two pieces of property for around 2 Million dollars. I  believe  several of the spaces are for the City to use.

  5. On the other hand,

    On the other hand, gentrifying Howard Avenues will benefit all of the residents of Evanston, 

    directly and indirectly. 

    1. I doubt that a lot of people

      I doubt that a lot of people feel that the Howard St. area will be gentrified.   It's not the kind of area to hang out at , late at night, and/or even walk to parking lots in the dark.  It's reputation preceeds itself.

      The shops that were there….beauty shops, barber shops, etc..churches…. DAYTIME venues, were better suited to that area.  Nobody I know of will hang around Howard St. if they don't have to.  And the first time a crime is committed there, see what'll happen.

      1. Go take a look

        People are enjoying spending time on Howard Street.  We can hope for and work toward better on our southern gateway. 

        Beauty shops, barber shops and churches are welcome on Howard Street.  But we need a variety of businesses for a vibrant community.

        Don't look now but Evanston's most diverse community is up and coming.  Not gentrified but, with a business district that offers a broad range of options, we will have more people considering the neighborhoods north of Howard for entertainment and possibly for their homes.

  6. Boycott city-backed businesses!

    As a taxpayer I am sick of this misuse of our tax dollars – those who think this mess on Howard street is OK should know the facts. When the Peckish Pig was approved the numbers in the memo presented by the so called Economic development department did NOT even add up, unprofessional work. I pointed this out at council not one Council member said a word. Why wasn't the patio put in up front with the original project? I am glad some of you believe the city spill, by the way I would like to be able to buy recycle brick pavers for 10 cent each, as the city sold them. The city has rules which some seem unable to follow, why wasn't this presented to the full council. If you believe a $16,000 cost estimate for this work, you probably have the same skills as the city staff who work in Economic Development. They came up with this phony estimate so they could claim it was under $20,000. By the way they are still adding up the costs? Have Wally show you the agreement he signed to modify the terms of the lease? Or are the paying the costs up front, have the economic developement department produce this document? Or did Wally just do this on a hand shake? Why can't the Economic development manager be more clear? The process was voliated here- there needs to be accountability. Will any council member say a word at the next meeting about this mess? I suspect not – given their lack of moral backbone. Those of you who want to pretrend this mess on Howard is acceptable – go investigate the Wine and Cheese Bar, my FOI of this showed this to be approaching $400,000 of our money – interestingly enough it appears City staff was very involved in building this place also. By the way the city even provide the owners with an apartment above the business, all with our tax dollars! Those who think Howard street needs help – in my view may be trying to displace others, the street had churches, and other small business which it appeared some did not like- I have no issue with the council member having improvements made to the city property such as the street scape. Providing our money to private business is purely bongus. Some may think It is unreason to suggest a boycott of these businesses, yet why should we continue to allow the city to misuse our money. And by the way – go take a look at the ceiling at the Evanston Ecology center – its fall out in about a 4×4 area and has not been fixed for months, and the green house had holes rats were getting in. If city staff has free time- let them work on city projects not for private businesses! By the way Wally wants to cut each department 3% in the next budget cycle so he can get more money for other things he needs, the question is he going to continue to misuse our money? I happen to know not all hourly workers were working on this job. So how did the city compensate them? Are these employees being forced to do this to keep their jobs, there are alot of questions that need answered here!

  7. Council responsible under “Dram Shop” Law?

    Since the Council has decided to fund so many bars, wine/cheese, etc. spots and it is claimed they are landlords [thus having to build patios for business] and possibly/probably really 'owners' until someone buys the business, are they legally responsible under the Dram Shop Laws—sure sounds like it—if someone has an accident or possibly commits a crime after having been served too much or served illegally.

    Years ago NU had a bar in Norris.  A patron caused an accident and NU faced lawsuits and fines by the city and finally shut the bar down.  Many universities have problems with alcohol on campus, football games, etc..  I'm sure many are staffed by non-university people but the university still gets blame and faces penalties if someone gets hurt.  Will this happen with the Council and if/when it does will it be the taxpayers who foot the bills ?


    1. Government Accounting

      Since there have been so many questions about the Council and Managers stewardship of tax payer money—‘Patiogate’, awning/fences for business, water storage tanks, etc.—we should consider more oversight measures.

      Any proposal involving expenditures, budgets or contracts [including union contracts] be posted on the Council Web site each Tuesday and a minimum of five days from the posting before any vote or action by the Council, Mayor, Manager or staff be done.  This would include a. descriptions or work/project and purpose, b. parties involved, c. statement that no one involved has a conflict of interest and that open bids have been publically sought, d. final payments for approved work and follow-up accounting for expected benefits [e.g. revenues, tax payer benefits/savings] would also be posted]. This would exclude emergency actions—e.g. damages after a storm.
      The same posting would apply for any variations among businesses, e.g. financing or gifts for development, decoration, etc..
      The Council, Mayor, Manager and staffs would recuse themselves from any action involving anyone who has or proposes a contribution to their campaign or they have any business relationship with.
      Neither the Council, Mayor or Manager will have any ‘discretionary’ funds for their use or spending.
      It would be good but probably not possible—at least at this point—to require the Mayor, Council members and Manager to obtain with their personal funds a Bond of fiduciary responsibility.

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