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Condo owners want more shops

Many new downtown condo residents say they love their urban lifestyle. But others say high taxes may drive them out of Evanston.

Nearly half the 265 residents of five new condo developments who replied to a recent city survey responded to an open ended question seeking opinions and suggestions about downtown. And they had a lot to say.

Many new downtown condo residents say they love their urban lifestyle. But others say high taxes may drive them out of Evanston.

Nearly half the 265 residents of five new condo developments who replied to a recent city survey responded to an open ended question seeking opinions and suggestions about downtown. And they had a lot to say.

Eighteeen people volunteered that they are happy with life downtown. The most frequent request — more new retail shops, services and entertainment options. Thirty-four people mentioned that.

And now that they're ensconced in their new apartments in the sky, many new residents want to bar the door to more newcomers like themselves. Twenty-five people said construction of new high-rise condos should be sharply curtailed or halted entirely, although a few said they want condo construction to continue.

For planners who believe that new retail growth is largely driven by increasing the residential customer base downtown, that desire for more retail without residential growth presents a clash of goals that may appear impossible to resolve.

Many comments called for the addition of more food stores. Trader Joe's, which has turned down several pitches from city officials to locate in Evanston, was mentioned favorably by several residents.

Other residents would like to see a new department store, more clothing stores that cater to folks beyond college age and a bigger drug store than the existing downtown CVS.

Other suggestions included adding a bowling alley and more bars and restaurants. But some residents voiced concerns about late-night noise, and one suggested rolling back bar closing times to midnight.

Taxes

Twenty-two residents said they feel squeezed by the tax burden in Evanston and think condo owners are hit hardest.

"We are being taken advantage of, drained and soaked," one resident wrote, "our taxes are way out of proportion to taxes on others, even within Evanston."

A few said they're considering moving out of town to get away from high taxes.

The survey was distributed while downtown residents were organizing to oppose a since-rejected plan to tax them to support EvMark, the downtown marketing association, and 15 people mentioned their opposition to the EvMark tax.

But several residents called for more effort to keep the downtown area clean and attractive — which has been one of EvMark's prime activities, in addition to promoting downtown businesses.

Public Safety
More than two dozen residents voiced concerns about issues related to public safety.

Eleven said they'd like to see beggars and homeless people off the streets.

"I get annoyed with the street people, especially near CVS. I get a bit scared when they are too persistent," one resident who described herself as "a small female," wrote. Two noted problems on Clark Street across from the 800 Elgin building. "Lots of unsavory characters" there, one wrote.

Ten people mentioned crime issues, ranging from residential burglaries to rowdy late-night partiers, including one who reported seeing "many NU students throwing up, buying drugs and being loud" in the early morning hours last summer. Another wrote, "Was burglarized recently, so kids want me to move to a safer place."

At least four residents said the city needs to be more aggressive in enforcing traffic regulations. "Ticket cars that drive through the red light on Sherman when turning into Davis," said one.

Parking

About 20 residents mentioned issues related to downtown parking. Suggestions included making meter parking free after 6 p.m. so that evening visitors wouldn't have get up from the dinner table to refill the parking meter, providing residential parking permits for downtown residents, selling temporary parking permits residents could give their visitors and an overall increase in available parking.

Public works
Five residents said they'd like to see Fountain Square revived. "More flowers and landscaping and a fountain that works," said one. "Respect our war dead," demanded another. "It's an eyesore," said a third.

Other condo-dwellers called for repaving streets and improving traffic signal timing.

Three residents said the city needed to do a better job of removing snow downtown, but two objected to all the salt used now — saying it injures the feet of their dogs.

Related story

Downtown condo owners profiled – May 4

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