Howard block: 4 businesses, all city subsidized


Evanston aldermen voted 8-1 Monday to subsidize a fourth business on a single block of Howard Street.

The move to provide two years free rent and other assistance to a planned coffee shop and coffee roasting operation owned by Chris Casas drew opposition only from Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward.

Wilson told reporters he believes that after the city provided substantial aid to two other new businesses on the block over the past two years, it should be able to get market rate rent — or close to it — from the latest business — which will move into the city-owned police outpost building at 633 Howard.

The city has spent an estimated $320,000 to purchase and rehabilitate the outpost building over the past 15 years, and under the new lease Casas will also get an option to purchase it after three years for a price not to exceed $500,000.

Alderman Ann Rainey, whose 8th Ward includes Howard Street, defended the deal saying it would return the property to the tax rolls and that the daytime coffee-shop operation would complement the evening business generated by the Ward Eight wine bar and Peckish Pig brew pub on the block.

The other deals

Alderman Rainey, Mayor Tisdahl and Ward Eight owners Anne Carlson and Cody Modeer at the Dec. 12, 2012 ribbon-cutting for the bar.

In February 2012 aldermen approved a complex deal involving loans, grants and free rent to subsidize the rehabilitation of a building it had purchased at 629-31 Howard and turn it into the Ward Eight wine bar.

Under that agreement bar owners Anne Carlson and Cody Modeer will have the option to purchase the building from the city as soon as sometime next year.

The Peckish Pig’s bar.

In March 2013 aldermen approved a deal to subsidize turning a row of storefronts it had acquired at 623-627 Howard into the Peckish Pig brewpub, giving pub owners Debbie and Jamie Evans an option to purchase the building in 2017 for the $675,000 the city has spent on it.

After extensive rehab work, the pub opened a year later. This summer city crews were used to build an outdoor dining patio behind the building.

In addition, a few years ago the long-established North Suburban Auto Supply at 641 Howard received a city matching funds grant from the city’s facade improvement program.

Rainey says both new restaurants are doing well, but one big test for the city’s investment on the block may come over the next few years as the business owners decide whether to exercise their options to purchase the properties from the city.

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