Evanston’s city manager says incentives the city has developed for the planned Trader Joe’s on Chicago Avenue represent a better deal for city taxpayers than approaches used in the past.

1223-25 Chicago Ave.

Evanston’s city manager says incentives the city has developed for the planned Trader Joe’s on Chicago Avenue represent a better deal for city taxpayers than approaches used in the past.

City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz told Evanston Now, “I think it makes a lot more sense” to have the city buy a parking lot for the development “than to gift a developer with a sales tax rebate, which is a more common approach for a project like this.”

“This way we’re retaining the asset — the parking lot — and have flexibility and control over the use of that asset forever,” Bobkiewicz added.

At least one alderman has privately expressed concerns about the terms of the arrangement — and the fact that while the city’s $1.4 million purchase price for the lot at 1223-25 Chicago Ave. was specified in the ordinance introduced Monday night — terms for what the city will receive from Trader Joe’s for leasing the lot to the grocery chain weren’t disclosed.

Bobkiewicz said he would have more information about that — and about plans for the city to acquire an adjoining old house owned by Northwestern University at 1229 Chicago Ave. to expand the planned parking lot — in time for next Monday’s City Council meeting, when the purchase is scheduled for final approval.

Assistant City Manager Marty Lyons said that if the Trader Joe’s project were to fall through, the city should be able to earn between $30,000 and $60,000 a year in revenue from parking on the two properties.

Lyons said those projections assume leasing 50 spaces at $50 a month for 24-hour permit parking at the low end, and a combination of overnight leased parking and short-term meter parking at the high end.

“In Evanston parking is at enough of a premium that using the lot for parking would allow the city to recoup the purchase price over the long haul, or cover the carrying cost of the property until it was sold,” Lyons added.

The money planned to be used to purchase the lot is now in the city’s parking fund reserve, which Bobkiewicz said is earning only about 0.75 percent interest, or about $10,500 a year.

The Trader Joe’s store is planned to be built on the site of the former Blockbuster video store at 1211 Chicago Ave.

The plans call for building the new store at the south end of that property, covering the existing Blockbuster parking lot with the new building.

In buying the 1223-25 Chicago Ave. building, the city will be assuming a contract to purchase the property that was negotiated by the developer of the Trader Joe’s building with the current owner of the land. The purchase price is about 7 percent lower than the assessed value of the building.

Related stories

City to buy parking lot for Trader Joe’s

NU playing role in Trader Joe’s deal

New Trader Joe’s store draws praise

Trader Joe’s to open store in Evanston

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Pro business or Pro-BS

    Pro-business? That’s laughable. It is only true if you mean business in the singular sense. In this case Trader Joe’s is that business. That isn’t capitalism, its cronyism (government giving advantages to specific firms).

    If the developer needs that lot, and he has the option to buy it, why does he need our money? All we are doing is putting money in the pocket of an already wealthy man. Why should we subsidize a grocery store? Especially since we have two others next door.

    Is there really demand for overnight parking in the area? If so wouldn’t Jewel or Whole Foods rent out their lots at night? If this is so good, why not pay for parking lots for all Evanston businesses (plural, not singular)?

    The tax-revenue argument falls apart when you consider that little additional revenue will be generated, because Trader Joe’s is not likely to generate much in additional sales, only cannibalize them from Jewel and Whole Foods (who paid for their own parking lots).

    We tax payers are getting shafted along with the existing grocers nearby. Every business should be subjected to the same level playing field, that’s real capitalism.

    1. the city and breaks to business

      It would be interesting to see a list of all businesses in Evanston along with whatever they receive from government in deals of any kind.

      Were I running the Jewel or Whole Foods stores on Chicago Avenue, I'd be pretty unhappy with the deal Trader Joe's is getting…but then maybe Jewel and WF enjoyed a deal when they moved in?

      Having been a customer of the TJ's on Waukegan Road, my prediction is that this new store in Evanston will have a huge impact on WF and Jewel, to the benefit of Evanstonians who will save money and TJ's, that will make a nice profit. It's such an appealing location, how could TJ's not be a winner – and yet the city steps forward with deals?

      Doesn't this deal making make businesses more likely to make demands of the city to locate here? Who can blame them?

    2. Another place to shop

      I don't know where you're coming from when you talk about cannibalizing business from Jewel and Whole Foods.  I'm sure I'm not the only one who shops at both stores.  I also shop at Dominick's, Target, and Jewel on Howard. 

      You cannot get everything at one store.  Trader Joe's will be a welcome addition and, of course, another place to shop.

  2. Wally is misinforming the public! (Again)

    'Bottom line – the funds to buy these building are NOT coming out of the parking fund reserves so to speak.

    Go to page 68 of the CAFR 2011 – Wally put $4 million dollars of water rate payers money into the parking fund – what reserves is he talking about? – when we pay our water bills Wally is skimming them  to subsidize this developer.  That is a fact!  It appears to me the parking fund has problem if he is using our water bills to cover the funds.

    It appears to me we do not have money for all these economic development activities and are less than bright council members continue to blindly approve them.   We do not have 2 million dollars here to buy these buildings – the money is not from revenue in the parking funds – but the misuse of our water bills.

    Wally is now telling us how he plans to make a big profits on water sales why does he need another 15% water bill increase on top of the last 15% increase over the last few years- to improve the system no – 7 million dollars is being used for non water uses he is skimming the water funds to keep the city afloat, its troubling and unethical – but I can not say it is illegal. ( anyone know?)

  3. Invest 1.4 million

    Invest 1.4 million today, control a limited hard asset,  receive about 400K every year in various revenues, plus whatever revenue your going to get from the parking lot.  

    Let's see, Trader Joes will probably do business here for how many decades?  Multiply that 400K times by 10 years, then by how many decades equals how much money to the citizens of Evanston top line.  What is the annual ROI of 400K on a 1.4 mil investment?  Roughly 3 years to get complete payback, possibly less, then it's all free cash flow.  Terrible, just terrible.  Those future millions are just a horrible disservice to the taxpayer.

    And jobs, we lost those couple of part time minimum wage employee's at the blockbuster?  Gee, another terrible performance on the job creation front.  Again no benefit of value to the citizens. 

    TJ had been approached about many multiple Evanston locations, all of them turned down.  Why shouldn't we just let them turn down another location?  And for the exact same reasons they turned down the others, parking.  Why would we try to accomodate them,  this is nothing but corporqte cronyism, no benefits to the citizens at all.  Not a wise investment of our money. 

    We have no need for those jobs and millions upon millions of added revenue to the City.  What a terrible thing.  Bad Wally, Bad. Bad, Bad Wally.

    1. Trader Joes is not the issue – the miss use of taxpayers $

      Why do we need to give the developer the parking?   Your RO! is not on the mark!  The property returns property tax now to the city. So the effect of the property tax plus sales revenue are not quite on the mark. 

      Also you are tearing down two  buildings and putting in a parking lot.  Seems to me you have reduced the value of your property tax by 1/2.  The ROI maybe well over  ten years if not longer. Wally and his crack team need to shows us the real ROI at the next council meeting. that is if they can calculate it.

      There is also the cost of the 2.0 million dollars to be added into the equation. ( you forgot to add in the building NU owns which are so called friends are going to have us purchase from them!)  its not 1.4 million – and frankly who knows how much more?)  Frankly this is the typical city of Evanston deal, no real analysis.  At least this one is better than the wine and cheese bar – which is a complete give away of our tax dollars and likely to be a complete lost,

      Shows us a REAL ROI please not a political one!

      Also you have completely avoided the real issue – that is the misuse of our tax dollars from the water fund – that is why should I pay money from my water bill to pay for  a parking lot?

      By the way Traders Joes does not own the buidlng or the parking lot, a developer does what are we giving Trader Joes to come here? It looks to me we are just giving this developer free money?


      1. Go ahead and do the math. 

        Go ahead and do the math.  Old buildings of less value get torn down, a new, bigger, better one gets built.  The assessed value will be based on new current numbers and will bring much larger r.e. tax revenue than whatever is there now.  Compare any new ground up construction to older property, simple fact that the revenue always far and away exceeds the old revenue based on the updated assessed value.  The ROI will be huge, and that differential in cash flow will always continue until after we are all dead and buried. 

        And don't forget the sales tax that will be generated, plus the extra liquor tax revenue, those alone will probably come close to matching whatever amounts are currently paid in r.e. tax, where zero sales taxes are currently generated.

        And don't forget all the multiple millions of dollars in annual payroll to local residents that will be generated, it will be substantial, especially when compounded out into the future.

        And so what if TJ doesn't own the parking lot, the city will, and that is a much better situation than TJ owning it.  This is simple economic development with very obvious major benefits to the taxpayer.  I will agree that some of the small scale minor city backed giveaways look kinda iffy sometimes, but this, like the Gordons facility, is a slam dunk. 

        Which pot the money comes from, I frankly don't care, what I care about is that they do the deal and we get the jobs and the millions upon millions in added revenue.  Or we can do what you say and not help with the parking, and TJ will walk away, again, for the same reason, inadequate parking, again, and we taxpayers lose, again.  

        P.S. the idea that they will cannibalize Jewel or WF is also highly unfounded.  TJ will create wider draw that will actually increase their revenue's, that's what usually happens.  It's a standard business practice called clustering. Bloomingdales, Macy's, Nordstrom, they are all competitors, why is it they always demand to be next to each other?  Because they get their sales cannibalized or because clustering has proven to work over and over again.  Simple basic business principle.    

        1. Higher assessments don’t necessarily mean more property taxes…

          I'm not saying this deal is good or bad, but just to correct a point… higher assessed values on properties do not necessarily bring in more property taxes.  Mostly simply put… local governments get in property tax dollars what they ask for (up to a certain amount)… just becaue there is a new building with a higher assessed value does not mean the City (and other local governments like school and park district) get more money… it just means that the building with the higher assessed valued absorbs more of the property tax burden (which one could argue is a benefit to the taxpayers).

        2. Which pot the money comes from, I frankly don’t care,

          '"Which pot the money comes from, I frankly don't care,"  it looks like an empty pot of money to me.  Were is Wally getting funds for this from?  The council members who claim they can run the township better should be asking alot more questions were Wally is funding all his misadventures.

          Its interesting in community that have declare bankruptcy the public officials use the excuse , we just follow what we were told.

          Why would Trader Joes not come here?   Frankly it has nothing to do with the give ways of the city, but the amount of time to approve a project. 'The buying of the parking lot, is Wally's comment a while back that he is "spreading the love" tha tis our tax dollars being given to private individuals.City staff can get their act together and many projects or potential projects get screw up by the numerous people one has to deal with at the city.

          Staff incompetence be clear , when they can not even generate a realistic ROI and others in the community follow along claiming millions of dollars are coming our way.

          Wally claim he has no money to fix the art center manision and he needs to close branch libraries, when at almost every council meeting he and his council member friends approve give aways of $50,000 with little value.  The numerous studies by staff, beyond the fact they lack the competence to do them are political to justify some one's agenda, versus any real value, wait till me see the "Robert Crown study we paid $150,000 for it will be pure nonsense and do not worry there will be miillions in bongus revenues with the taxpayers holding the bill.

          Wailt till next year, since you want to keep investing, are you interested in investing another 10% to your city of Evanston property tax bill to follow this years 5% plus the water bill fee increases ( basically 8%)


  4. Evanston and parking

    I don't know how many of you remember when Marshall Field's was in downtonw Evanston.  From what I understand, and correct me if I'm wrong, Marshall Field's wanted Evanston to build more parking lots or have more parking spaces.

    The city fathers of Evanston at that time refused that request. Marshall Field's moved to Old Orchard.  Even though Marshall Field's is not longer in existence, Old Orchard (or whatever it's called now) is.

    Evanston had a chance at being what Old Orchard is but is their spite of hating business, downtown Evanston is – basically – a ghost town.  No matter what they do to make downtown Evanston a showplace, it will never be what it could have been.

    What the heck is wrong with a parking lot for Trader Joe's? I have lived here long enough to see the errors of the city father's ways … and they're pitiful.  Taxes are going up and up .. Go ahead.  Make Trader Joe's back down again … then the city government should be forced to live in Evanston the rest of their lives, paying the higher taxes – their decendants, too.

    1. Fields

      I got news for you. Old Orchard and Evanston Marshall Fields co-exited for at least a dozen years before the Evanston branch was closed. It had very little to do with a parking lot. It had to do with consolidation and a more popular location 3 miles away.

  5. Biggest reason it’s a good deal

    I'm happy the eyesore LA Tan/old Blockbuster building will finally be demolished. Getting the Trader Joe's is just a bonus.

  6. Property Valuation

    The County just valued this 1225 Chicago at $602,312 via a 2011 appeal the the Board of Review.  2010 reassessment value was $719,132.  We're paying 1.4 million?  This is almost twice what the County said it was worth!  Commercial property is assessed at 25% of market value.  I hope someone at the City can justify the purchase price via a recent appraisal or sale comp of some sorts. 

  7. Will Trader Joe’s books be public?

    Just wondering if, as a beneficiary of public funds, will Trader Joe's be subject to financial disclosures? This seems like a foolish expense of the city's so I'd like to look at the books as an "investor".

Leave a comment
The goal of our comment policy is to make the comments section a vibrant yet civil space. Treat each other with respect — even the people you disagree with. Whenever possible, provide links to credible documentary evidence to back up your factual claims.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *