Evanston aldermen Monday night approved the city’s $2 million purchase of two Chicago Avenue buildings to become parking lots for a planned Trader Joe’s market.

Only Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, voted against all aspects of the complex transaction. Wilson said he voted no because the city hadn’t budgeted for the spending and because he’s “reluctant to put city money into private enterprises.”

The deal drew praise from other aldermen, and from Cease Giddings, co-owner of the nearby Folk Works Gallery, who said Trader Joe’s “will be a mecca for  food lovers like me.”

Top: Cease Giddings of the Folk Works Gallery. Above: Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward.

In response to concerns about why the chain would want to locate at 1211 Chicago Ave. — within a block of two other supermarkets — Johanna Nyden, a city economic development planner working on the project, said the company likes to be near existing grocery stories.

Because Trader Joe’s stores are smaller than typical supermarkets, Nyden said, the company knows that shoppers will need to do some of their grocery shopping elsewhere, and hopes to persuade them to augment their shopping trip with a stop at Trader Joe’s.

Johanna Nyden of the city’s economic development staff.

Under the plan, the city will acquire the two parcels at 1223-25 Chicago Ave. and 1229 Chicago Ave. and license them to the developer of the Trader Joe’s project, Terraco Inc., for 70 years.

Assistant City Attorney Michelle Masoncup said the license arrangement would mean that the city would remain in possession and control of the property, but under the license the developer would have responsibility for maintaining the property.

Michelle Masoncup of the city’s law department.

In response to a question from Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, Masoncup said that would likely insulate the city from liability for any suits based on injuries to store patrons or others using the parking lot.

And Terraco’s president, Scott Gendell, said the company would include the city as an additional insured under its own insurance policy for the property.

Terraco President Scott Gendell.

Assistant City Manager Marty Lyons said that the city will continue to hold the lots as an asset on its books, and the value of the asset will be increased by the estimated $500,000 the developer will spend to  remove the existing buildings and prepare the site for parking use.

Nyden said that based on the performance of similar stores, she believes the city will make back the $2 million investment on the project from increased tax revenue within four to six years.

Because the nearest existing Trader Joe’s markets are at least six miles from the site of the new store, business owners in the area have expressed hopes that, rather than cannibalizing business for the existing supermarkets, Trader Joe’s will draw in shoppers from a wider area north and south of Evanston.

A map from the Trader Joe’s website showing its nearby existing stores and the approximate location of the new store marked with a star.

The Trader Joe’s project still needs to go through the city’s planned development process, with community meetings, a recommendation from the Plan Commission, and votes by the council’s Planning and Development Committee and the full City Council.

Assuming that process moves smoothly, Nyden said, the plan is for the new store to open next spring.

Related stories

Evanston council to vote on Trader Joe’s deal

Manager defends Trader Joe’s aid plan

City to buy parking lot for Trader Joe’s

NU playing role in Trader Joe’s deal

New Trader Joe’s store plan draws praise

Trader Joe’s to open store in Evanston

Related document

Special City Council meeting information packet

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Trader Joe’s parking lot design: Awful and unnecessary

    I am not necessarily against public money going to pay for infrastructure to help local businesses BUT it should fit in to the larger planning goals of the city.

    Unfortunately, this design does not comport with the Chicago Avenue Corridor Plan to make the area pedestrian-friendly.

    One of the main problems with Chicago Avenue is all of the "dead space" resulting from the huge parking lots at Jewel and Whole Foods.

    Setbacks and parking lots larger than the footprints of the buildings they are supposed to serve degrade the pedestrian environment.

    It is unclear why Trader Joe's can't follow their own example on Diversey in Chicago where they incorporated a parking garage above the building and oriented the store immediately adjacent to the sidewalk which encourages walking and other forms of low-impact mobility. They also could have similarly followed the model of the Whole Foods at Church and Chicago.

    This is antithetical to the transit-oriented development the city purportedly endorses. The fact that the City Manager pushed this thing through and that the council (save Wilson) bought it without asking essential questions about the plan is pathetic.

    Given the poor planning apparent in the city-subsidized Gordon Food Market on Oakton, it appears that Wally and a complicit council are hell-bent into making Evanston into a replica of the sprawling Southern California where he came from.

    1. Those parking lots are always full

      That's not dead space.  Those are people grocery shopping.

    2. Ok

      Yea, so let's boot them out of Evanston because you do not like the planning.

      Throw the baby out with the bath water.  Get real.

      1. No lets boot them out because

        no lets boot them out because they are giving our money away to benefit already wealthy people…..and poor urban design

  2. Did I miss the sign?

    There was an EvanstonNow story about all the signs coming into Evanston.  I must have missed onen at entrances to Evanston “Ask the Council for Money—they will give it to you.” 

    Even NU got into the act with the ridiculous price they got for the house.  This while the city complains that NU does not pay its share of the city budget in lieu of taxes.  Secret—even if NU would  want to give more to the city they know how it would be wasted and figure they can use the money for better purposes.

    The Council seems to spend more time on shoveling money out the door to anyone who asks for it, than trying to figure out how to clean-up the budget/pension mess they got us into.

    Any proposed or even existing business seems to get money from the Council just for asking—except of course the ‘Tilted Kilt’ which offended the Council or should I say the groups they want to vote for them.

    What will happen with Trader Joe's?  The city will ‘seem’ to support them for a year or two and then impose taxes, new inspections, etc. until they lose profits. Whole Foods nearby will probably close within two years—no one knows why they have two stores anyway—and probably would not have even one if it was not for NU students spending daddy’s money and the up-scale Evanston residents who want to impress their friends with the fact they have so much money they can shop there.

  3. Money

    I don't understand how the city gets its investment back from Trader Joes based on sales tax revenue. When Trader Joes sells a banana that will be one less banana being sold at one of the other 9 major grocery stores in Evanston. Except for a price differental, that will end up being no net gain for the city.

    Sounds like Wally works some fuzzy math unless he plans to increase his banana intake.

  4. My only complaint

    My only complaint is that the city could've gotten a better deal.  Also why doesn't the city lease match the lease that Trader Joes has with Terraco?  That is TJs has something like 30 or 35 year lease, but Terraco has a 70 year lease.   If Terraco is paying under market to the city surely the city could've gotten something in return.  



  5. I agree on the planning

    I agree on the planning point. Parking lots are not friendly to pedestrians. That *is* dead space — cars amd cement are not people. When you walk from Davis St to Main St on Chicago Ave, the blocks that include Whole Foods, Jewel and the car dealership are blocks I feel a need to rush through.

  6. Must be that ‘New Math”

    Johanna Nyden of the city's economic development staff:  "The city to recieve $2million in four to six years based on performance of similar stores"    —  I wonder what Wholefoods thinks about that projection.  Did Evanston give a similar type of deal to Wholefoods or any of the other grocery stores? 

    The one thing that Evanston does  not need is another high-end grocery store.

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