Downtown Evanston announced at its semi-annual public board meeting Tuesday the launch of a merchant gift card this holiday season that will be honored at many of the downtown area’s 300 retail shops.

The MasterCard-based gift card is available at the Downtown Evanston office at 820 Davis St. in values ranging from $5 to $500.

It comes with a “passport” for the buyer, offering discounts — most good all year — from a variety of merchants.

Downtown Evanston Executive Director Carolyn Dellutri said the program was developed as a result of a group project at last year’s Evanston Community Foundation Leadership Evanston program.

She said it’s designed to encourage Evanstonians to shop in Evanston, to help businesses in the community grow, and to increase sales tax revenue for the city. One hundred businesses have signed up so far, and there’s no deadline for others to join, she said.

Dellutri also announced that holiday decorations will be going up on street light poles next week and the holiday tree lighting ceremony will be held Nov. 23.

Dellutri said more businesses have opened than closed in the downtown area in the period from June to September. Two closed and one moved to a different part of Evanston, while three new businesses opened, two re-opened, one moved to a new location and another moved to downtown from elsewhere in Evanston.

Then last month the Asha Aveda Salon opened in the Sherman Plaza development, which Dellutri said is adding 65 new jobs.

The group recently installed 104 banners on light poles to promote downtown businesses and activities, and board chair Dan Kelch said he was especially pleased to note that all the banners survived several days of high winds that hit just after they went up.

The group’s board approved a budget that includes funding for new special events in the spring and fall, and Dellutri said the group is looking for ideas for those special events programs. One idea being considered for the spring is a collaboration with a film festival that’s planned for April 14-17.

Evanston’s Public Works Director Suzette Robinson announced plans to install recycling bins around the downtown area next spring next to existing trash receptacles. 

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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