Mayor Steve Hagerty in his state of the city address today said Evanston needs to expand its tax base through new development.

“If we want our city to remain the attractive, vibrant and special place that it is,” Hagerty said, “We can’t stop looking for opportunities.”

“There are opportunities everywhere,” he said, “And we need to seize them.”

The luncheon address was hosted by the Evanston Chamber of Commerce at the newly renovated Holiday Inn on Sherman Avenue.

Hagerty noted new development projects — like the new apartment development on Emerson Street that just broke ground. He said would add up to 350 residents to the city and almost $1 million in additional property tax revenue — with two-thirds of that money going to the schools.

Library board member Ben Shapiro with Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, at the state of the city luncheon.

And he also pointed to new businesses — from Colectivo Coffee, scheduled to open this spring in the old Radio Shack space at Church and Sherman, to Cafe Coralie, that opened last month in the old police outpost on Howard Street.

“If we want more visitors spending money in our community, we need to build new amenities and attract cultural institutions,” Hagerty said.

Alluding to the 37-story Northlight Theatre project on Sherman Avenue, withdrawn last week by its developers amid complaints that it was too tall, Hagerty said, “We want Northlight back in Evanston,” so the 50,000 people who attend its productions will will be dining in Evanston.

But, he added, “Our community will have to accept change to bring them back, and sacrifices will have to be made by all of us.”

The mayor also noted that the city’s jobless rate is down to 3.8 percent and said more than 80 new businesses opened in town last year.

He basked in the glow of several reports proclaiming Evanston as one of the best place to live in the nation and pledged that the city would continue to work on efforts — from preventing climate change to reducing crime — to make it even better.

YouTube video

Related document

Full text of Hagerty’s speech (.pdf)

Copies of the city’s new annual report were distributed to guests at the luncheon. An online version of the report is available here

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Here’s a novel idea: CUT

    Here’s a novel idea: Cut spending and reduce waste! That includes a freeze on creating any more staff positions that have the words equity and inclusion attached.

    1. State of Evanston
      Having watched escalating property taxes (by choice, we voted for it) in conjunction with rising income taxes (we did elect Robyn Gabel, Daniel Biss) along with a cap on personal deductions for federal income taxes,suppress real estate values real estate values in neighboring communities, it is incumbent on our leaders (including the school board) to find every opportunity to reduce spending. Evanston may very well be in the position of a property value reduction of 20% (nice for affordable housing advocates, bad for people who view their property as an asset) while seeing property taxes continue to crush property owners since the overhead of running Evanston, D65/D202 has not been contained. This can not be good for our community.
      Any opportunity to grow our commercial tax base is an opportunity not to be missed. Asking NU to voluntarily pay property taxes to provide relief in property taxes should be encouraged as well. If NU were to contribute fair market value as property taxes AND EVANSTON D65/202 NOT SPEND THE ADDITIONAL REVENUE, the benefit to taxpayers would be tangible for all. I suggest that Mayor Haggerty send a property tax bill to President Schapiro at NU–and do the same at Evanston Hospital and St Francis.
      For D65/202 and the City, I suggest a one year hiring freeze and not replace employees who retire/resign, well. No layoffs, just reductions in staff via attrition.
      I don’t think the D65 referendum vote would win the same way it won last year knowing what we know now.
      All of this impacts the state of the city and should be considered.

      1. Time to take action against Northwestern!
        A group of Princeton residents sued Princeton University, challenging the university’s tax-exempt status and WON!!! The residents claimed Princeton is not a non-profit organization.

        The judge in that case ruled that the burden of proof for tax-exempt status was on Princeton University, meaning it would have been required to prove itself qualified for property tax exemptions it was already receiving. It was proven that Princeton University earns millions of dollars in patent royalty income that is then distributed to faculty. The action also argued that the university partakes in other commercial operations. Northwestern University also gets patent royaltie and distributes it to faculty!!

        Halleluah! Come on Evanston residents, TAKE ACTION AGAINST NORTHWESTERN that has an $18 billion endowment!!!

        Princeton agreed to contribute $2 million in 2017 and $1.6 million in the following five years to a fund that will distribute the money to Princeton residents. The university agreed to make a $3.5 million annual contribution to the town of Princeton in 2021 and 2022.

        If Mayor Hagerty wants to increase the city revenue stream he should lead the way and challenge Northwestern!!!!

        Government is starting to go after these rich universities.

        The $1.5 trillion tax bill passed by Republicans in December and signed by President Donald Trump includes a 1.4% excise tax levied on the returns of any private university endowment that amounts to over $500,000 per student. Previously, capital gains from endowments were not taxed. Harvard’s $37 billion endowment makes it the largest in the nation, and the tax could force the school to pay approximately $39 million more in taxes based on its 8% annual return last fiscal year. It appears Northwestern has $499,952 per student, just under the 500k.


        Harvard will likely pay tens of millions annually in added federal taxes after congressional Republicans passed a $1.5 trillion tax bill in December that included a tax on returns from large university endowments. The final bill Congress passed levies a 1.4 percent excise tax on the returns of university endowments that amount to more than $500,000 per student. Harvard falls into this category, and administrators estimated such a tax would have cost the University $43 million if it had taken effect during fiscal year 2017. Harvard has a $37 BILLION endowment!!

    2. agreed, completely…
      …with prev replies here: amm vincent, JPF & Anonymous Al (wherever you are). but while looking up from our lower middle class and not down from the top, i still see that new revenue as a Plus and a bandaid will not remedy the forthcoming autopsy on the debt side of our balance sheet. i still see that unbalanced reliance upon the transience of “luxury rental” markets will not endure the volatility of sweet & rough economic cycles, which our city council(s) continue to underestimate. and, worse, i see that continued Blue Sky spending upon municipal personnel, city council benefit package and a frills-based operations account for D65/202 is still the aggregate money pit of a hole still dug deeper with still zero return on investment for the more permanent residency of still lower middle class homeowners here… still the real evanston majority whether our mayors/aldermen know it or not, whether they like it or not. we can’t afford you. and that’s on the line.

      we are the particular social class now redlined in our current urban plan… and not as an unanticipated consequence. the next move is yours.

      1. Responsible, not BAD development, there is a difference
        Development is good for the community when it is good for the WHOLE community. The next proposal up for the Planning Commission is the Trammel Crow development at 1727 Oak Ave, behind the 1007 Church Street office building. A 17-story, 169 unit building requiring numerous zoning variances wedged onto a 0.8 acre triangular lot is not responsible development when the negative impact on the surrounding community is ignored. Oak Avenue already has limited parking which will be further strained by the 163 unit building coming soon at 1815 Ridge. The sole access point to that building is actually off of Oak Ave, not Ridge. Pedestrian safety will be impacted by the influx of residential, public, and commercial traffic. Zoning regulations exist for a reason. If the property is going to be developed, the responsible proposal needs to be appropriate to the intended scale and use of the property.

        1. What exactly would you
          What exactly would you consider responsible development? It seems like every proposed development meets fierce opposition.

  2. state of the city

    Thoughts in general as it pertains to article and insightful comments.

    1—Evanston had a Tax NU Referendum on the ballot in a city election some years ago and it passed by something like a 70% margin if memory serves me correctly—-how far did that go?—-absolutely nowhere!…No way NU was going to let that one go uncontested—they got the money, lawyers, and holy grail charter.

  3. Taxing Institutions fairly and equitably…
    I want to take a moment to re-post this from just over a year ago concerning NU taking more properties off the tax rolls and offering their idea of fair property tax value to the community chest…

    Submitted by Brian Becharas on February 13, 2017 – 12:21pm

    As a multiple parcel taxpayer in Evanston, I am very concerned about properties that leave our tax rolls for one reason or another.
    Northwestern University was founded in 1851 and has enjoyed tax exemptions for most of their 166 years (Evanston was founded in 1863)… It occurs to me that their ancient covenant with the City of Evanston needs to be revised for the 21st Century.

    Evanston’s total land area is only 7.8 sq/miles. When a property leaves the tax rolls that means my tax bills can only go up! Methinks it would be fair to the taxpayers of our community if henceforth, everything east of Sheridan Rd would be tax exempt. Everything west of Sheridan Rd. not directly related to educational activities should be taxed fairly.

    Furthermore, I don’t know the honest answer to this question but when a home or residence is donated to the University (like a few of my friend’s family homes were) and are provided as housing to University faculty and staff – are these properties paying property taxes? If they are not and these faculty or staff have children attending public schools in Evanston – who covers the 10’s of thousands of dollars per pupil?

    To be honest, I recognize the University’s founder status here. I have attended school there in mid-70’s and enjoy many of the benefits of the University’s presence in our community. But to ignore the 800 lb gorilla which are our tax problems would be irresponsible… especially when an Institution that has a cache of $9.6 Billion (as of 2016 – one of the top 10 Endowments in the US) in their kitty is part of the problem.

    I feel strongly that it is time to ask the tough questions and move more towards equity for the citizens and other entities who occupy the other part of these 7.8 sq/miles who pay taxes. I trust that the next mayor will address this with our friends and neighbors at the University.

    Respectfully submitted, Brian G. Becharas

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