The financial magazine Forbes has picked Evanston as one of its three favorite suburbs in the Chicago area.

And, consider company we keep in the rag that used to promote itself as “the capitalist tool”!

In its survey of 15 major metros, the only other Chicago suburbs Forbes mentions are Kenilworth and Winnetka.

What does Forbes like about us? “Evanston is known for its tree-lined streets, Victorian architecture, complex building codes and Northwestern University.”

And we’re mentioned in the same breath as Cambridge, Mass., as examples of college towns that are “places where you’ll find high-quality restaurants, parks and entertainment, with local residents flocking to lecture series, art galleries and music venues.”

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. question
    How many 49 story sky scrapers does Cambridge Mass have in
    it’s downtown? Better yet, what is the tallest building in it’s downtown?
    Since this is a positive example to emulate lets see how we compare.

    1. Cambridge envy?
      Cambridge, Mass., which as we all know suffers under the crushing burden of playing host to two major tax-exempt universities, compared to Evanston’s one … has as its tallest building a structure taller than our current tallest building, but shorter than the proposed 49-story tower.
      You could look it up at
      — Bill

    2. Comparison to Cambridge
      According to Wikipedia, the population density of Cambridge, MA is 6,087 residents per square km. The population density of Evanston, IL is 3,698 per sq km.

      According to Jeff Smith of the Central Street Neighbors Association:

      “In anything involving numbers, from passenger car occupancy to biological populations, from real estate markets to parking garages, there are usually optimal numbers for sustainable functioning, and a limit on how much you can add before increasing negative effects outweigh the positives. We have recently added thousands of units and households to Evanston, hundreds more are being built or have been approved, and the effect is not yet clear”

      I believe that we are not even close to the optimal population of Evanston. There is plenty of room for more people, especially downtown and near the CTA stations. We still have not reachedthe 1970 population .

    1. Tax exemption
      When the churches in this city start to pay real estate taxes, then Northwestern University should pay as well.

      I do not see one benefit – not one – from giving churches tax exempt status – and we sure have a lot of church properties in this City. Nobody ever seems to complain about this for some strange reason. It would be an interesting figure to know just how much tax exempt land is given over to churches, synagogues or other such religious structures in Evanston.

      On the other hand, I do get some direct benefits from Northwestern – an accessible and beautifully maintained and landscaped lake front (better than the City’s property!) where I can walk or bike, a wide range of cultural and educational activities – some of which are free. Also, the University helps our local schools with some much needed tutoring and other student help. Indirectly, they help improve my tax bill by bringing in thousands of students and their parents and friends from all over the country (and world) to spend, spend, spend in Evanston stores, restaurants, hotels, sports events, etc..

      Yes – all in all – I get more benefits from NU than from the all of the tax exempted religious institutions here combined.

      1. “Not one benefit from churches”
        No argument that there are many benefits from having Northwestern here in Evanston. (Also, of course, there are many benefits to Cambridge for having Harvard and MIT, but as pointed out, in addition to those benefits, that city ALSO gets money in lieu of taxes from those schools. NU is not so generous.)
        I wish Northwestern valued good relations with the city enough to save the money it spends on parties for residents and all those PR newspapers it puts out touting itself and instead gave that money to the city, which could use it.

        Does NU really help your tax bill? Who can say? Compared to vacant land, certainly. But if NU weren’t there, its lakefront territory would either be more parkland (poorly maintained, I guess you would say, but public) or pricey homes (which would certainly be taxed).

        The tax issue aside, though I lament that NU is greedily holding on to every last dime of its huge endowment instead of spending a little to win some hearts and minds and aid the city, I’m glad the university is here and I think it’s indisputable that it’s a benefit to Evanston.

        I’m also glad the city’s churches are here, and am grateful for the care they give to our homeless; the preschools, schools and adult classes they host; the sense of community they build for congregants and residents, and even the occasional rummage sales. Unlike NU, most do not have billions in the bank. But like NU, they also seem to maintain their grounds nicely. Like NU, they host cultural and educational activities, some of which are free.
        One can certainly dispute whether they should be tax-exempt. But it’s hard to argue they don’t benefit the community.

  2. Churches Are Not Costing Taxpayers Millions
    The one piece that both scared Anonymous and Barb left out of the equation is most important. While Anonymous acknowledged that churches do in fact benefit the community, whereas Barb disagrees, the one factor neither raised is that churches are not costing the City of Evanston millions of taxpayer dollars in additional costs, beyond their tax exempt status, namely FREE FIRE SERVICE!

    While it is fair to say they both are institutions with property not contributing to the tax base, Northwestern University is the largest user of fires services in the community. How many false alarms does each church rack up? How about dorms on fire? What about explosions? When compared as individual entities, NU as an entity wins every time. When compared collectively, again, NU uses more fire service than all of the churches combined and always will.

    In addition, those are taxpayer supported bonds that we are issuing in the capital budget to spend millions of dollars on brand new, state-of -the-art fire stations that are conveniently close to the university, to respond to their every false alarm and explosion, at the expense of average joe taxpayer. That does not bring into the calculation things like on going maintenance of said buildings, the costs to train and pay firefighters, oh, and lets not forget their retirement benefits! If you are gonna compare – you gotta be fair.

    Neatly manicured lawns? Are you kidding? Whooopi!

    As always, not afraid to share my name,

    Mimi Peterson

    1. Conveniently close
      Mimi says:
      “In addition, those are taxpayer supported bonds that we are issuing in the capital budget to spend millions of dollars on brand new, state-of -the-art fire stations that are conveniently close to the university”

      Can someone fill me in on the details, here? What is this about building new stations ‘close to the university’? I know that Station 3 was recently replaced, on the same site, and Station 5 is being replaced, again at its same site. Are we building new stations? Near the university?

      I checked the City of Evanston’s map of fire stations…take a look:

      Which of these stations is ‘conveniently close to the university’? Station 3, which also happens to be conveniently close to Evanston Hospital and Ryan Field (OK, that is university owned..).

      Hey…let’s close this one down…I wonder what all the NIMBY’s in Wards 6 and 7 would have to say about that…imagine the lawn signs: “Save our Fire Station!” All the talk about how the station is necessary to preserve the ‘unique charm’, ‘quaint ambiance’ and ‘historical North Shore atmosphere’ of Evanston.

      It would be hilarious…it also appears to be the station closest to the Civic Center and the former Kendall lot, so all of those NIMBYs would come out to support their fire station…imagine the turnout at the council meeting! Perhaps there would be a referendum! A website ( ? ) and a ‘grass roots’ organization (Evanston Society for Fire Prevention) of selfless concerned citizens.

      And if the 6th ward ever did burn down, the residents of the new downtown tower – with its state of the art fire safety systems – would have an awesome view of the flames, and a good laugh. And the president of the Central Street Neighbors Association would get his wish – there would be fewer residents in the city.

      Mimi, what is your position on this issue?

      Mr. Who Knows

      1. Can’t Distract From The Fact
        As a point of information, the “newest” (as in did not exist before) fire station in town is on Emerson Street, which by the way is generally the first responder to the dorms, false alarms, explosions and fires on NU’s campus, and cost millions in taxpayer supported dollars. Yes, taxpayers have spent millions of taxpayer-supported capital on both fire stations on Central Street, and well we should. Fire fighters, whose salaries and benefits are also paid for by the taxpayers, should not have to work in buildings in which the state of repair is worse than the Civic Center or Robert Crown Center.

        Those issues are beside the point, which was made well in my original response. Mr. Too Scared to be Known’s attempt at humor to distract from the real issues paled in comparison to the very real issues I raised, which it was duly noted, he/she failed to address entirely.

        Northwestern University remains the largest user of free fire services in the community. How many false alarms does each church rack up? How about dorms on fire? What about explosions? When compared as individual entities, NU as an entity wins every time. When compared collectively, again, NU uses more fire service than all of the churches combined and always will.

        Regardless of the location of any fire station in the City of Evanston, still, taxpayer supported bonds are issued and expended in the capital budget to build brand new, state-of -the-art fire stations which respond to NU’s every false alarm, explosion, and fire at the expense of average joe taxpayer. In addition, that still does not address the calculation of on going maintenance of said buildings from the capital budget, and the costs to train and pay firefighters from the general fund. No taxpayer will soon forget the expense of their retirement benefits.

        As ever, unafraid to attach my opinions to the facts, and proudly sign my name,
        Mimi Peterson

        1. Falsely shouting ‘fire’
          Wait a minute, Mimi…let’s look at what you actually wrote:

          “In addition, those are taxpayer supported bonds that we are issuing in the capital budget to spend millions of dollars on brand new, state-of -the-art fire stations that are conveniently close to the university, to respond to their every false alarm and explosion, at the expense of average joe taxpayer. ”

          Clearly you are suggesting that the construction and location of a new fire station were made for the benefit of Northwestern, not the ‘average joe taxpayer’. I assumed you were talking about Central St. Station # 3, because I can’t imagine how anyone could possibly consider the location or existance of Station #1 to be “conveniently close to the university”.

          Station #1 is conveniently close to downtown Evanston. Conveniently close to he commercial buildings, the Orrington, the North Shore, the new condos (which all have excellent fire safety systems). Not only that , the location of Station # 1 makes it easy to send trucks down Emerson to the west side, or up Green Bay or Ride to the north, down Ridge….The more I look at the map, the more it becomes apparent that this is an excellent location for a fire station!

          This is a very good location for a fire station – and it serves residents from all around Evanston. It was silly of you to suggest that this station is just ‘conveniently close to Northwestern’ and not for ‘average joe taxpayer’.

          As for false alarms and explosions at NU…I don’t have the data on that. I’d like to see your sources. If NU students are causing false alarms, they should be prosecuted, and the City should charge a fee for coming out to any alarm if this is legal. { I would guess that the North Shore uses fire/paramedic service more than NU…but again, I have no data.}

  3. Churches+Non-Profits+Fire Stations
    Thank you Barb Feldon for your comment. You are right on the mark. In fact there are tons of non-profits in Evanston, not just churches. Many receive financial support from the city. It would be interesting to know how many non-profits operate in Evanston. It sometimes seems that Evanston would be in direct competition with Washington DC for the prize of most non-profits per capita.
    No one has mentioned the YMCA or YWCA. Both are located on prime real estate. Are they paying property taxes? I have found the initial registration fee + yearly membership fee + the cost of classes there outrageous. In one case I was able to sign-up for a class at Northwestern for the same cost as the YWCA without paying any one time fees or membership fees, just the cost of the class. In June 2005 there was a report of a young boy who was “assaulted” in the men’s locker room at the YMCA. In the article discussing the incident, it was noted that the YMCA provides transient housing, which shocked me. If they don’t pay property taxes, how much is this costing in city services? Who are these people living at the Y?
    In regards to the fire stations. Practice fire drills are quite common on the NU campus and allow a unique opportunity for the Evanston fire department to perform fire drills. Do any of the privately owned buildings downtown invite the fire department over to evacuate all its residents? Does the civic center hold fire drills? It is NU employees who interrupt their work day to help prepare the fire dept. for an emergency. Yes NU benefits, but so does the entire community.

  4. Why all the fretting about
    Why all the fretting about the minuscule additional load that NU and the churches are placing on the Evanston Fire Department? My most recent property tax bill indicates that 20.5% of our property taxes go to the city of Evanston. If even 1/5 of that is targeted for the fire department, then about 4% of our taxes are devoted to fire protection. If even 1/4 of Evanston’s fire protection services are consumed by the churches and NU, that means that only about 1% max of our property taxes are subsidizing fire protection for these non taxpaying institutions.

    Now let’s turn our attention to the 800# gorilla sitting on our chests – the public school system. 68.5% of our property taxes are consumed by this behemoth. Who, benefits from this service? People who send their children to these schools. Who pays for the school system? Except for NU, the churches, and some nonprofits, everyone, including people who send their children to private schools, people with no children, people who never had children and people who will never have children. Non taxpaying institutions have no children to send to the public schools so they cannot be accused of freeloading. The freeloaders are those who send their children to the taxpayer funded school system.

    I estimate that Evanston has about 2,000 condo units and more are on the way. Why is the city encouraging the creation of condo developments? Is it because condos are taxed much more heavily than single family homes of comparable value? Maybe it’s also because condo owners as a group have very few school age children and can safely be gouged to subsidize those who do?

    It’s time that the Progressive people of Evanston set an example for fairness and agitate to free the tax slaves.

  5. The 800# Gorilla
    In response of the MetaCynic’s comment regarding our property taxes and the school system, I think that as a progressive society, we all share a certain burden to educate our population whether we have children not. But I agree with the point regarding this aspect of our property taxes. Our taxes are high and with 68% going to the schools – how do our schools compare? I think that this is where we should be spending at least 68% of our interest! I saw in the news this past week that approximately 40 Chicago Public schools are starting “year round school” in an acknowledged effort to counter the problem of so much learning lost during the summer vacation so that the entire month of September is spent relearning what had been learned the previous year. What a waste of valuable (and expensive) time. Are the Evanston schools trying anything new about this problem? With only 9 months (at best – not counting all of the holidays, in-service days and parent conference days off), losing at least a month every school year is too much. What is District 65 and 202 doing about this? For all that we pay, I don’t hear of too many progressive ideas coming forward. It is pathetic. We have basically the same school system we had 50 years ago – only then the teachers were poorly paid. Today, for 9 months work, they earn more (with benefits) as many others with college degrees that only have a 2 week vacation to start. In the last 60 years – nothing has changed, but we are paying a heck of a lot more money. Something is clearly wrong with this picture. That IS the 800# tax gorilla! Thank you Mr./Ms. MetaCynic for pointing this out.

    By the way – NU, as well as anyone else (including condo owners) pays for all of their alarm fire calls, past a certain number. I think maybe 3, but I am not sure. Whoever is interested, you could check with the Fire Department on that topic. So, Ms. Peterson, your focus regarding the fire service is really very exaggerated. I agree with someone else who anonymously wrote about all of the good things that the churches do. Yes, some benefit our City by the social services that they provide. And lastly, I must say that I am not in the least bothered by people who feel more comfortable expressing their views ‘anonymously’. I only wish they would make up a name (like a screen name) so that you are able to refer specifically to their comment. This forum, where someone can express their views intelligently and freely is great. I actually don’t care who they are if so long as they are not attacking the other contributors and their views are interesting. I just don’t get what all of the fuss is about people who post anonymously. To you who are bothered by it – get over it and move on.

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