The long-vacant building at 1629 Orrington Ave., once the site of a Borders bookstore, may soon be home to a day care center for more than 300 children.

Evanston’s Zoning Board of Appeals is scheduled to review plans for the center, which requires City Council approval as a special use, during a meeting at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Civic Center.

The facility would be operated by Bright Horizons, a Massachusetts-based company that describes itself as the world’s leading provider of employer-sponsored child care, early education and work/life solutions, with over 700 programs in the U.S., Canada and Europe.

Bright Horizons currently operates 34 centers in the Chicago area, including the NorthShore University HealthSystem Child Development Center at 1000 Central St. in Evanston, which cares for 84 children.

Company officials say they have a commitment from Northwestern University to sponsor 60 spaces in the new center.

Top and above: Views of the 1629 Orrington Ave. building today.

The company’s proposal, as presented last month to the city’s Site Plan and Appearance Review Committee, calls for operating programs for infants and toddlers in the rear of the first floor of the building and programs for three- and four-year-olds on the entire second floor.

The front of the first floor of the building is not part of Bright Horizon’s plan. It may be separately developed later for a restaurant or other retail use.

The plans call for having a 7,000-square-foot playground on the roof of the building with an 8-foot tall security barrier around it as well as a  ground-level play area with a 6-foot fence. A new elevator and stairs would provide access to the roof-top playground.

The area between the 1629 Orrington building and the 1603 Orrington tower has recently been redesigned to provide a surface parking lot accessible from the alley behind the buildings.

The day care center plan calls for 14 surface-level parking spots, six 20-minute parking spaces in the complex’s underground garage and 26 additional parking spaces for employees in the garage.

The company says the new center would provide 58 new full- and part-time jobs and that it provides a full benefit packages to its employees.

Day care facilities downtown have proved controversial in the past, with aldermen late last year initially rejecting a proposal for an adult day care facility in storefronts at 524-526 Davis St., only to approve it on an 8-1 vote at their next meeting.

The would-be developer later withdrew from that project, and the space is now being converted to an Asian restaurant called Todoroki, which signs say is scheduled to open soon.

Borders moved to a newer location in the Church Street Plaza development about a decade ago before filing for bankruptcy and closing that store earlier this year.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Evanston aldermen hostile to businesses and property owners

    It will be interesting to see what the City Council does here. Aldermen have a track record of mucking up business deals that has cost the city hundreds of thousands of dollars in potential tax revenue. Just watch how aldermen will try and micromanage how this company can operate in the building.

    Last year in November the City Council voted 8-1 against an adult day care center at 524 Davis in downtown Evanston. The aldermen said they would rather see the space remain vacant than see an adult day care center there (that makes good business sense). At the time, the space had been vacant three years.

    Building owner Ted Makravis told the City Council that the city previously approved a day care for kids but the process took eight months and the investor backed out (really? what a surprise).

    You may recall that Mayor Tisdahl denied Makravis a liquor license last year to open Tilted Killt in the fountain square building he owns. Tisdahl's primary reason for the denial was that the Tilted Kilt waitstaff uniform was too is risque. That space still remains vacant. Think about all the missed sales and liquor tax revenue, jobs created, and then think about the 17 percent city tax increase in the past two years.

    Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the City Council one month later voted 8-1 for the adult day care center. Why the 180 degree turnaround? They voted for the adult day care as long as Evanston residents be given first priority access to the program and that daycare participants not be restricted by staff to go outside.

    Anyone wonder why that investor backed out? My guess is the adult daycare company couldn't acquire affordable insurance if they were prohibited from deciding whether or not participants could go outside. In any event, the adult day care operators should decide if their CUSTOMERS can go outside or not. Giving first priority to a group of people based on where they live sounds and smells like a juicy lawsuit waiting to happen.   

    But that's our City Council, sport fans. They know better than us or any business owner. 

    And for their wisdom, commercial vacancy remains high and Evanston has gained a reputation of being unfriendly to businesses and property owners. As a result, our city and school taxes continue to rise as aldermen continue to raise fees and fines to fill the gap.

    Let's not forget about that mysterious list of landlords that were being investigated for building code violations. Aldermen passed the list around even though none of the landlords knew they were on the list. Now the city wants to create a more costly licensing law for rentals.

    I could go on but clearly we need new leadership in Evanston across the board. Don't ya think?


    1. Right on target

      Our city council is just like our current federal government, unfriendly to business, and because of their mistakes they need to raise taxes and fees.

      Don't forget our mayor who never misses a photo op.

  2. would be amazing!

    This would be amazing!  So many NU employees and profs need high-quality child care close to campus.  It would be a great employment opportunity for Evanstonians and NU students.  Evanston should ask NU to help reel this deal in and subsidize it for NU employees and profs.  It would add so much foot traffic.  GREAT idea.  Let's do it.

    1. Don’t get hopes up

      The Council will either kill it out right or plague the application with 'extras', hearing and other delays until the proposed owners pull out—the Council never seems to run out of ways to keep business out.

      They announce 'proposed' new businesses and hope voters will remember the 'proposal' and forget how they killed it.

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