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.

Related story

Renewal effort moves west on Howard

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. not a wine bar

    Why do your stories always refer to Ward Eight as a Wine Bar??  Its a cocktail lounge with very limited wine choices.


    1. Wine bar

      It is frequently described as a wine bar because that's what the owners described it as in their request for financial assistance and licensing from the city.

      Go to the city website and search for "wine bar" and you'll see.

      It is true that the owners now promote it as a "cocktail lounge."

      — Bill

      1. Only 1/9 of the story


        I know why Alderman Wilson voted against this proposal from what I read in your article.  What I would like to know is why the other Alderpersons voted for the proposal (other than Ann wanted it).

        1. Aldermanic views

          As we noted in our live A&PW meeting report, Alderman Jane Grover, 7th Ward, said the coffee shop "will make Howard an all-day destination." and that "the two businesses the city has supported already — Ward Eight and Peckish Pig — have been wildly successful."

          Other than that, no alderman offered an opinion on the project Monday night.

          (The council has a whole lot of items on its agenda, and it would make the meetings insufferably long if every alderman expressed a view on every issue.)

          I think it's fair to assume that people who vote for such proposals without expressing an opinion either think the expenditure is worthwhile or don't want to antagonize a colleague who's pushing for it.

          If you want to query your alderman about his or her position, you can find contact information here.

          — Bill

          1. Suggestion


             Why not suggest to the mayor and council members that they post their views on upcoming votes on a evanston govenment page on EvanstonNow prior to the scheduled meeting. It would increase your readership. It would save council meeting time by having, if possible, less debate time. It might even increase your advertising revenue that will help expand your site

            EvanstonNow has long been the best news place for Evanston and it is free.

            It may be hard to get the council members to express their opinions, but if you get a couple to start, the rest will be pressured to follow along.

          2. Howard an “all day” destination?

            Wow. I always thought of Howard as an "avoid at all costs" destination. However, I understand the value of gentrification in this area. Cannot understand why my tax dollars have to pay for it.

          3. Therein lies the problem
            Howard is our southern border. Many people have been working hard to make Howard and the area north of it a desirable place to live, do business and enjoy an evening out.

            It is the outdated “avoid at all costs” mentality that is hard to change. If we truly celebrate diversity, this is one of the most diverse areas of town. We are putting public funds into helping our city, business people who are willing to invest their efforts (and some of them funding as well), and our fellow Evanstonians who call the area home to make it an “all day destination.”

            Shall I list many of the goofy things that the City Council spends money on? The investments in Howard Street get people riled up here but these are investments compared to the many totally foolish expenditures that I can name. Let’s start with the Evanston Art Center — $1 a year rent for decades and the EAC ignored contractually-required interior maintenance. But no matter. The City is continuing the handouts. But wait, that’s on the north side and a more upscale clientele so the rules are different.

            Stop at some of the Howard Street businesses now. Then look 10 years down the road. The plan is for a more diverse business community there and more taxes being paid to the City.

    2. Do we really care we own a Cocktail lounge? or just a BAR!

      The mess on Howard street continues, Ann Rainey claims these are All sucessful businesses?  Please!  The famous Wine and Cheese Bar – was close to 100% subsidize with Tax payer money.

      The city even provide an apartment for the owners of the Wine and Cheese Bar.

      The newest deal is even more interesting – Wally has us getting 10% of the gross, on the sale of coffee.  We now own a marginal coffee business on Howard street – that is every taxpayer is a business partner with this coffee shop.

      Whats worst Wally is up to his old Patio trick – that is it only cost $18,500 to renovate the new building for the police outpost  so he is going to be hiding the costs- by the way why do we still even need a police outpost on Howard Street is it still a crime infested area?  Ann Rainey is claiming its up and coming?

      Over 1 million dollars of our tax dollars has been wasted on Howard street – but its more than wasted it appears transfer to private individuals – Frankly if these were such GREAT deals – why can't these individuals go to the bank? Clearly they can not.  Giving someone a complete business such as the Wine and Cheese Bar and then telling everyone its a sucess, that is making a profit – is a total fabrication, only a fool or a city council member would  believe this nonsense!

  2. Subsidize all businesses?

    Since the Council feels they can pick winners and make special deals, maybe they should subsidize all Evanston businesses. An easy way would be to remove all taxes to all businesses. Since they seem to believe all money is free [whether from the state, federal government or grants] they should just be able to pick up the funds from their never bare 'money tree.' We never seem to get an accounting report from the 'Winners' they have been picking all these years.

    Residents and Council complained for years about the property NU owned. Now the Council seems determined to be the largest property owner. With defaults and foreclosures they cause from taxes and hounding business they may just do that soon.

    1. It might work

      All this subsidy or "investment" is curious. We continue to pour large amounts of money into the Howard Street area, which could already be a doomed investment unless the OTHER SIDE OF THE STREET does the same. How is that going?

      I wholeheartedly agree with you on getting a report on prior "investments". This should be a requirement.

  3. The last good place on Howard–Eduardos

    My feeling and when I ask people when they went to Howard from Clark to Western, was Eduardos.

    They also comment there is almost no parking and where there is, is Case, Custer and Rogers Park. Also that valet parking means nothing—paying young kids to park in those same areas?

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