Evanston City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz tonight will urge aldermen to recycle the city’s former recycling center on Oakton Street for commercial development.

Competing proposals for the site include a new location for the city’s salt dome or reuse of the building for a indoor sports facility for youth soccuer and baseball programs.

The site  at the edge of James Park is across the street from the Home Depot and adjacent to property being developed by Gordon Food Service.

Bobkiewicz says new commercial development would bring needed tax revenue to the city and jobs for residents.

He says the city needs additional economic activity but has very few potential sites for new retail development.

Top: A diagram from a staff report showing possible commercial redevelopment of the recylcing center and animal shelter sites. Above: An image of the recycling center from Google Street View.

Meanwhile, the Evanston Baseball and Softball Association and the Evanston American Youth Soccer Association say they’ve gathered 650 signatures on a petition advocating for the indoor sports facility, which they claim they could operate at no cost to the city.

The recycling site is adjacent to the city’s animal shelter, and Bobkiewicz says that property could also be redeveloped for commercial use, if a new site for the shelter can be found. He says he’s exploring options with Skokie officials for a possible combined animal shelter operation.

A staff report suggests sale of the recycling center and animal shelter property could generate about $1.5 million in one-time revenue for the city and that once it was converted to commercial use it might generate about $100,000 in annual property tax revenue, with the city getting about 20 percent and local schools about 67 percent.

Related document

West Oakton Development Committee Report (.pdf)

Bobkiewicz memo (.pdf)

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. The reuse of the recycling

    The reuse of the recycling center for indoor youth sports is a terrific idea. James Park is a youth sports mecca and extending the season of all the sports already played there makes perfect sense.

    This youth sports facility does not have to come at the expense of commercial development. Evanston already has a considerable amount of vacant commercial space.  The mall at Dempster Dodge, the old Osco on Asbury, the old Borders and Barnes and Noble.  Nothing is stopping a commercial business from moving into these spaces now, why should the city create more? 

    There are plenty of spots ready for a business, but nowhere better than James Park  to locate an indoor youth sports facility, particularly one that will be fully funded by its customers and sponsoring organizations.

    1. I agree with “anonymous”, plus what about the gardens?

      What will become of the fabulous community gardens that are just south of the former recycling center?  These are a boon to the community in a number of ways.  I'm concerned that the article doesn't mention them one way or another.  I certainly hope they are not considered dispensable!

      1. No impact on gardens

        The staff report says none of the three proposals under consideration would disturb the community gardens.

        — Bill

  2. Recycling Center

    Just a reminder to the City — the Recycling Center and Animal Shelter are built on top of an old landfill – it costs a great deal more to build on this site, which the City discovered when they built both the Recycling Center and the Levy Center.  (All the garbage needs to be dug up and replaced with dirt.) If someone can re-purpose the existing buildings it won't be a problem, but I think a developer would probably want to be able to build something else. Hence, this may not be that attractive to a developer, but more suited to use by someone who wants the existing buildings.

    1. Unless the city PAYS the developer

      This is exactly what happened with the new Gordon Supermarket in that same area.  The city is paying them to clean it up to the tune of $500,000.

      So here we could have the city sell the thing to a developer who will undoubtedly hold on to it until they can get someone to build.  Then when they do the initial site analysis they will be crawling to the city for a handout!

  3. Devil’s Advocate

    Why can't a company come in and make this an indoor sports facility that will pay taxes?  This makes it sound like it will come at no cost to the city, but also, that it will be some sort of non-profit that won't pay taxes.  If the demand is there ( and I know it is, not just from Evanstonians but I'm sure other communities as well), why isn't someone courting a company that may have other facilities like this in other places?  Maybe they are, I don't know, but it makes sense. 

    That being said, if the city is so concerned about tax dollars, perhaps they shouldn't turn away businesses in vacant storefronts. 

    1. No quick fixes- put families first

      As the man stated above, the proposed use of the property is to benefit ALL Evanston residents, not just our elite. The sports organizations making the proposal have shown commitment and service to our community for years, and reach out to all children, regardless of ability to pay. For-profit organizations do not do this! Inclusion makes our community stronger by getting kids and families involved in positive, community building activities TOGETHER.

      This is what Evanston needs– not another "quick fix" strip mall scheme.

      1. I’m not implying a strip mall for elites

        I'm all for a sports facility for everyone.  However, when the city raises our taxes to cover the money they are NOT receiving in taxes for this land, don't complain.  Don't blame the Council or Mayor.  Nothing is free. If the city is losing money on this deal, they will make up for it in other ways. 

        This is all I'm saying.  It's a great idea in theory, but is it practical?   Will this model sustain itself, or it will it add to the list of empty spaces in Evanston? 

          1. As I don’t have children, I haven’t a dog in the hunt here…

            …but I seem to remember we are still paying off bonds from the building of the Recycling Center.  Does anyone know?

            For the person who stated this will benefit all Evanstonians, I wonder how it will benefit those of us without children.  Perhaps indoor tennis or squash courts could be put into the design.  A number of childless Evanstonians play tennis… I run into many of them weekly at the James Park tennis court during summer.

  4. Make money with sports

    This summer I visited a number of skate parks in Southern California. It looks like there municipalities are running a number of those parks and charge for admittance and equipment rental and make some extra money through concession stands. Sport and commercial use go hand in hand.

    We desperately need a skate park. And from what I've seen elsewhere there is money to be made, plus it would solve a number of other problems in our community. For once getting the skate boarders out of alleys, loading dogs and away from other business properties. 

    I am not familiar with the footprint of the facility, but maybe there is an opportunity for a multi sports complex.

    And yes, if the city manager is so concerned about commercial development, then I would love to see him to get busy filling the empty store fronts down town. What we don't need is another empty strip mall or another junkyard in our neighborhood.

  5. Gardens?

    Anyone know if these proposed developments will effect the communal gardens located behind the recycling center?  I hope not.  They are a lovely little area and community. 


  6. Aldermen: Please support the indoor sports facility proposal

    I encourage each Alderman to support and vote for the indoor sports facility proposal for the following reasons:

    1.  It will increase revenue in Evanston.  Actually, an Indoor Sports facility would drive additional spending in Evanston. Currently families are taking kids to other communities for indoor sports lessons and practices and spending money while they are there.  An indoor Sports facility in Evanston would allow that money to stay in Evanston and support existing businesses.

    2.  It fits in with existing adjacent uses.  An indoor sports facility is much more conducive to existing adjacent uses- James Park and Dawes Elementary School.  There is huge demand for this and would benefit all Evanstonians.

    3. No developer imminent.  There is no retail developer identified or who has expressed interest in the site. Such a retail development could be years away- during which time the facility sits underutilized.  The indoor sports facility use does not preclude retail development in the future if such demand becomes more real.  

    4. For all Evanston youth.  Under the terms of the proposal, each participating organization would be allotted time in the facility and all offer scholarships.  therefore, youth participating in these sports would be allowed to use the facility without regard for their ability to pay.  It is not an elitist use only for weathy people who can pay, it will be used for all Evanston youth who participate in these sports.

    With your votes, we can create a lasting legacy that promotes healthy families and kids.  

    Thank you.

    Greg Clarke

    Evanston, IL 60202

  7. Franchise opportunity?

    How about something along the lines of the "Frozen Ropes" indoor training facility in Niles? That would be a for-profit model that would serve the same , no?

  8. Salt dome could impact the gardens

    I would be very worried about salt runoff into the gardens if that is the choice.  

    How about this: extend the gardens or park to Oakton & just rehab the animal shelter?

  9. Questions

    What is the cost to acquire a suitable property to relocate the animal shelter?

    What is the cost to build a new animal shelter?

    How long will the animal shelter be displaced?

    What is the cost to do the landfill remediation?

    How many retail developers have expressed interest in the property?

    What is the cost to retrofit the existing building into a salt storage facility?

  10. Parking and access to James Park

    While we're at it, City of Evanston & D.O.T., PLEASE consider an entrance to James Park from the West side, i.e. off Oakton, going behind the vacant Recycling Center (OR, the new retail dev. just East of the canal).

    A park of this size needs more than the small roadway and parking lot accessed from Dodge, and this could potentially be much safer for pedestrians, as well as reduce the terrible traffic on Oakton, that's a nuisance to both Oakton area residents, and anyone trying to go East on Oakton —– arrrgghhh!

    1. All traffic is an issue…

      Rampant speeding occurs on a regular basis on Oakton.  Thankfully, our police have been cracking down on the extreme speeding that is taking place in large part because residents have been complaining in unprecedented numbers.  In the past 3-4 years, residents on this street have been subjected to an experience when pulling in/out of our driveways akin to a war waged against us by those who are only traveling through.  Oakton residents and every other "artery street" that is also residential in Evanston would appreciate if you would give us a "BRAKE" when traveling down the street where we live.  We would appreciate it if you could recognize that many of Evanston's "artery" streets have homes with children and neighbors who wish to have a modicum of safety in our daily lives. 

      We have watched over the years as pass-thru travelers have dropped the courtesy of driving within the confines of the speed limit and now we face a situation where fully 85% of the traffic travels anywhere between 35 and 45 MPH (and on the periodic occurrence, perhaps even over 50 MPH) on our streets and in our school zones.  On multiple occasions, I and my neighbors have had drivers in vehicles behind ours shout epithets and give us the single finger salute as we slow down (yes, we give plenty of advance warning with a turn single) to pull into our driveways. 

      Personally, backing out of the driveway mornings is the single worst moment of my day.  Cars queue up at the traffic light and those in line literally wait until the last possible second before braking to a stop thus leaving residents with no safe moment to back out into the street.  To compound the issue, aprons of driveways and egress onto Oakton is almost always completely blocked by a driver who feigns ignorance of Oakton residents' attempts to get off of our driveways.  Incidentally, quite a few of us do not have alley access to/from our home so our only choice is to exit/enter our homes from Oakton.  It is not lost on us just how few people there are out there who will extend a courtesy during rush hour by stopping their vehicle and allowing us to back into the street. 

      If you've taken the time to read this entire commentary, I thank you.  I have hope that the next time you are driving down any of our artery streets, you will give consideration to the families who live there and treat the street as you would wish your street to be treated by other drivers.  Artery streets are not speedways, they are simply streets where you are permitted to go a few MPH faster than you are on side streets.  Let's all work together to bring back good neighborly behavior… I hear enough folks complain about others' lack of courtesy often enough to believe we all miss it.

      1. The problem on Oakton is poor design

        I don't live on Oakton, but I totally agree that traffic is awful on that street.  Part of the problem stems from poor road design.

        The pedestrian crossing they installed  at Grey is helpful, but the lack of any traffic calming infrastructure west of the Home Depot streetlight is strange.  It was known that the new Shell station would add traffic to the area, but they didn't plan adequately for it.

        One way they could help with traffic calming would be to stripe  bike lanes–particularly west of Grey to the canal.  As of now we have a nice bike path at McCormick, but the entire area west of Hartrey is brutal for cyclists.  

        Striping for cyclists will slow down traffic.

        They should also put in a pedestrian crossing at Hartrey and Oakton as well.

        Making the area more bike/pedestrian friendly is especially important if the recreation center comes to fruition since many users will be kids without access to cars.

        1. Bike Lanes on Oakton….

          …is a fabulous idea.  I would love to see them added and so would my neighbors.  It would definitely keep us from being mown down by the riders who frequently use the sidewalk because they feel the lack of safety we complain of in the street.  Also, in addition to a crosswalk at Hartrey, we would like to see one added at either Dewey or Florence.  In the interest of smoothing traffic and heightening pedestrian and driver safety alike, we have campaigned for a STOP sign to be added, but have been told it will never happen.  It is unfortunate because it seems much of the traffic on this street is really heading into Roger's Park – hence the need for a turn lane at Dodge/Oakton.  Unfortunately, continuing down Oakton and turning at Asbury, Ridge or Chicago Avenue is too good a deal, thus the funds spent implementing the right turn lane were a waste of capital, but I digress…

          Back to your original point, I'm completely supportive of bike lanes on Oakton and additional pedestrian crossings wherever we can get them added.  There are too many children on this street to allow the rampant abuse of our traffic laws to continue unchecked and, since enforcement is put on the back-burner because crime is up, we need to implement the infrastructure needed to smooth and slow traffic. 

  11. Total lack of professionalism by city staff on Oakton site


    The presentation last night on the site was a total joke.   Council members showed their lack of understanding of any sound business principles.  They approved to start discussing a lease with the groups for a sport facility.

    What a joke!  They are talking about a rent of $4,000 a month, it was also claimed the city is using this for a storage facility – to get the same space will cost $9,000 per month  staff. claims  ( ofcourse who trusts staff numbers? )

    Looks like a $60,000 real cost to tax payers , of course we do not know it the city really needs the storage or they have junk in the building?  My guess the loss may be more! Are these staff member going to do a good job in lease discussions are these the same people that  came up with the lease of $1 a year for the Evanston Art Center at the mansion on the Lake?

    Then there was Wally memo, on how he would like economic development of the site, Ok looks good or does it. It appears to move the animal shelter and expand it at a new site would cost over $5 million dollars. What is Wally thinking?  He can get $20,000 a year in property tax revenue, and maybe some sales taxes – lets say $100,000 a year, 50 years to a get a return to break even?   Looks like the deal President Obama came up with to give a company half a billion dollars for solar collectors and it flopped!

    Then there was the idea of the salt dome, the staff involved with this are the same group that screwed up the groot contract and yard waste stickers to the tune of over one million dollars. Frankly they appear not to know what they are doing, with how they buy salt,Their presentation on the option for the salt dome was no better than last nights.

    If they can't figure out how to deal with this mess now can these same people deal with a budget that is increasing going into the red.

    Wally why wasn't a simple chart presented with the cost break downs of each option and the net loss, for each since they all appear to be losers?  At least we would know how much more the budget is going into the red for next year.

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