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Evanston wants to buy abandoned gas station site

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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.

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