Evanston’s Economic Development Committee Wednesday voted to recommend to the City Council that it provide $11,000 to pay half the cost of facade improvements to a building at 816-818 Church St., near the Sherman Plaza complex downtown.

Evanston’s Economic Development Committee Wednesday voted to recommend to the City Council that it provide $11,000 to pay half the cost of facade improvements to a building at 816-818 Church St., near the Sherman Plaza complex downtown.

A rendering of planned changes to 816-818 Church St.

The building is owned by Behles & Behles, an Evanston-based architectural firm that has its office on the second floor.

The first floor has two storefronts.

One, formerly occupied by a card shop, is vacant, and Joe Behles told the committee that that The Rub, a yoga studio that occupies the other space, has asked to terminate its lease effective at the end of February.

Behles told the committee that real estate brokers have told him he needs to upgrade the building facade to attract new, quality tenants.

He said the planned improvements include removing the existing awnings and the deteriorated ground floor sandstone veneer.

The facade would get a new black granite base, similar to what’s on the two adjacent buildings, and a limestone facade for the first floor, as well as a new masonry coating over the pre-cast concrete second-floor facade to match the new first floor treatment.

While they supported this project, some members of the committee asked city staff to provide more details about such grant requests in the future and to provide objective measures of the benefits the city derives from each project.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. How Frustrating!
    Well, the Rub is another business leaving the much heralded Sherman Plaza. At least there is development in the old B&N building. By eyeballing, there seems to be 50-60% occupancy in Sherman and Church Street. Not good for relatively new buildings. Isn’t there supposed to be another condo building being developed with yet more retail space? How much vacant retail space is too much?

    Harvey, The Rub is near, not in, Sherman Plaza.
    It’s probably time for another survey of downtown retail occupancy. Most recent previous ones Evanston Now has published are here and here.

  2. Where do I get in line?
    My place of business, a home office, would be much more marketable with an $11,000 makeover to its facade, too. I’m sure I can get real estate brokers to advise an upgrade. Despite the slow market, I can hear them say, a new facade will bring in buyers.

    With a grant from the city, it will be a win-win situation for me. I’ll get a better price for my house using other people’s money.

    Feel your pain, but are you paying $61K a year in property tax on your house like this downtown building owner is? Bringing in sales tax revenue?
    No? Might try the city’s housing rehabilitation programs. Maybe you can cash in on one of those.
    — Bill

    1. Not the Government’s Business
      Anonymous is right on, Bill.
      It’s not the job of government to dispense favors based on who provides the most sales or property tax revenue.

      “The most” is not the issue. The core question is whether you want government to provide incentives to encourage behaviors that are expected to increase government revenue in the long run and make the community more desirable.
      Once you decide whether government should be in that business at all, then we can have an extended debate about how to make sure that the government doesn’t get taken for a ride when it tries to engage in such activity.
      But if your accept the premise of government engaging in economic development activities at all, then you are necessarily in the business of providing “favors” to people who promise to do things you want done.
      — Bill

      1. Facade Improvement
        The city is not “handing-out money”. Futhermore not all applicants are guaranteed matching funds- there are certain criteria to be met. I actually voted no to a major downtown business’s request for facade improvement TIF funds in 2009.

        Briefly in lay-person terms, a TIF is a finite pot of money that lasts for a period of up to 23 years, plus or minus a decade in most Illinois cities. In Evanston, if your business is in a TIF District and you are willing to lay out some cash to improve the facade of your building, you can apply for a refund of your expenses up to 50%. The city’s website has maps so you can check to see if your business is loacted in one.

        Please go to the city of Evanston’s website to educate yourselves. You can also go to http://www.illinois-tif.com where you will find this paragraph: “One tool successfully in use in Illinois and 48 other states to meet (these) economic development challenge(s are) Tax Increment Financing: or TIF. With this development tool, financially strapped local governments can make the improvements they need, like new roads or sewers, and provide incentives to attract new businesses or help existing businesses stay and expand. And TIF does this without tapping into general municipal revenues or raising taxes.”

        Evanston has six Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Districts. They are Downtown (District 1), Washington National (District 4), Howard and Ridge (District 5), Howard and Hartrey (District 3), Southwest (District 2), and West Evanston (District 6). TIF Districts are established in compliance with State of Illinois statutes. The mechanism is designed to assist financially desirable developments that but for the financial assistance would not be able to achieve. The City’s TIF Districts have been very successful historically. Annual reports for each TIF District are available through the Planning Division of the Community Development Department. (www.cityofevanston.com – click Business tab, then click Economic Develeopment, then click TIF Districts). The City also has another Economic Development Fund with a finite/limited pre determined annual budget amount that is used for various economic assistance requests, including some types of building improvement.

        Feel free to call the city @ 847-866-2928 or myself via my email.

        Thank you,
        Dan Mennemeyer
        EDC Member 03-30-2011
        Evanston Chamber of Commerce Treasurer 2009-2010

  3. Card shop forced out?
    The operators of the ala Card store always said it wasn’t their choice to leave, but that the building’s owners wanted a national franchise store, not a local business.

    Don’t know if that’s so, but I would hope they weren’t forced out just so the building owners would have a more compelling case for city funds.

    Don’t know anything about your version of events, but Behles told the committee that his sister owned the card shop.
    — Bill

  4. The spaces need more than a facelift…
    I looked at this space a couple of times and two things sent me elsewhere. The first problem is the layout. Retailers generally require a space with more width than depth (both spaces are long and narrow) and would not work well for my business. While they could work for a restaurant, the owners (who are located on the second floor above) have steadfastly refused that option. (Personally, if I had a $61k property tax bill, once space vacant for nearly two years and the second tenant leaving, I would take whatever I could get.)

    My other concern was the high rent in relation to what I could (did) get elsewhere. The card shop left because they could no longer afford to stay and my guess is The Rub is doing the same.

    The real issue is what kind of return on investment will the city see. Businesses, such as The Rub do not collect sales tax as they are providing a service and not selling actually products while retail, restaurants, and others do. Property taxes aside, the owner would have to assure the city that he will only rent to business that are required to collect sales taxes for the city to see any return on the matching funds. Property taxes are due regardless and should not be used as part of the equation.

    I am a big fan of TIF funds being used for economic development provided that the finite pool of money is spent in such away that the city sees actual not perceived benefits in the long run.

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