Evanston aldermen will be asked tonight to give the city manager authority to buy a former gas station site on the west side.

The property, at 1801-05 Church Street, a half-dozen years ago was proposed as the site for Darrow Corners, a 27-unit low-income housing development that was rejected by the City Council on a 5-4 vote

Since then the city has purchased and demolished two small apartment buildings just north of the gas station site that were also to have been part of the Darrow Corners development.

Some development has occurred on the block in recent years, including the conversion of a shuttered dollar store into the Boocoo cultural arts center, and the work now underway to convert a former animal hospital that was the site of a failed black history museum project into a building contractors cooperative.

Top: The concrete base that once supported a gas station sign marks the edge of the 1801-05 Church Street property. Above: The vacant lot is on the same block as the Boocoo center and a planned contractor’s cooperative, the building with the scaffolding.

The city is also starting a streetscape improvement and repaving project on that section of Church Street this summer, which will include creation of a protected bike lane.

The site is just a half block from the Veolia waste transfer station, and the odors from the transfer station wafted through the gas station site this morning.

The gas station site is just across Darrow Avenue from the Strange Lofts commercial rental building.

The gas station site is owned by entities controlled by Daniel Cheifetz, the local developer who launched Boocoo.

A city staff memo says another entity, Phoenix Bond & Indemnity has purchased unpaid back taxes on the property from 2007 and could gain ownership of the property through a court order if Cheifetz doesn’t pay off the tax debt by late July.

Community and Economic Development Director Steve Griffin says an environmental study has determined that there are four underground gasoline storage tanks on the property and that will likely cost at least $75,000 to clean up the site.

The resolution calls for using an amount not to exceed $150,000 from the West Evanston TIF for the property acquisition.

Related stories

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Neighbors review Church-Dodge plan

Aldermen reject affordable housing plan

Aldermen get affordable housing hot potato

Plan Commission gives thumbs down to Darrow Corners

Darrow Corners plan draws fire from neighboring developer

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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1 Comment

  1. Why is the city competing with a private developer?

    I don't like the smell of this.

    Looks like Phoenix Bond & Indemnity wants to buy the property. Daniel Cheifetz owns the gas station site but has not paid taxes and his Boocoo Center is in dire financial straits.

    So why does the city want to buy the site if a private developer is making a move to buy it?

    A few years back, Evanston purchased a couple of two flats next to the gas station site for several hundred thousand dollars and then demolished them. Nothing ever happened and the hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy the buildings was wasted. Yep, a real good use of our tax money.

    Evanston had financed at least five failed affordable housing projects in the past several years – not a good track record.

    Sounds like maybe the city wants to try again and build low income housing on the gas station site even after it had received an $18 million federal grant to stabilize the neighborhood and rehab and build new affordable housing in the Fifth Ward, including the old Bishop-Freeman factory site. . 

    Or consider that the city gave a building and $200,000 to a group to create a black history museum only to discover about SEVEN YEARS LATER that no museum was created and the $200,000 of taxpayer money was long gone, baby.

    How has Evanston benefitted from the West Evanston TIF in the last seven years? The condo lofts or Church Street Village that went belly up in which the last phase was never completed?

    Evanston just approved a TIF for ONE 25-year-old shopping center recently purchased by a developer in a foreclosure. That developer stands to gain millions to rehab HIS shopping center and use taxpayer money to lure other businesses.

    Does anyone on the Evanston Council believe that maybe if they lowered taxes and free up regulations that maybe more business owners might be inclined to relocate or start up in Evanston?

    I want lower taxes not the city pissing away my hard-earned tax dollars.

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