An analysis of county tax assessment records shows Evanston has scored major gains in its tax base from recent downtown construction activity, but still has an array of buildings dating back over a century.

Half of the just over 200 buildings downtown are at least 75 years old, with the oldest built during the Civil War.

This two-story Victorian home at 1724 Chicago Ave. is listed in county tax records as 144 years old, which would make it the oldest structure in Evanston’s downtown area. It is also one of 28 landmark buildings downtown.

Downtown still reflects a building boom that peaked in the 1920s and replaced much of the area’s original structures. More than a third of our current buildings went up between 1905 and 1930.

The landmarked Carlson Building at 636 Church St. was completed on the eve of the depression in 1929 and for years was Evanston’s tallest building.

And the number of buildings still standing that are 51 to 75 years old is roughly equal to the number built in the most recent quarter century.

What has changed most dramatically, though, is the market value of what’s been built in different eras.

The 10 percent of buildings that are a decade or less old carry nearly 40 percent of the assessed value of all downtown’s structures.

That’s partly because new construction, in itself, tends to carry a value premium. But the newer buildings, as exemplified by the 28-story Optima Views condominiums at 1720 Maple Ave., tend to be taller than older ones, and often occupy a larger parcel of ground, so they include more taxable square footage.

In addition, new downtown residential properties, mostly owned as condominiums by individual unit buyers, tend to yield higher market values per square foot than older buildings owned as rental apartments or cooperatives.

As Evanston considers rezoning downtown, this is one of a series of articles providing background on development issues. To add your comments, use the link below.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Taxes paid are more important than assessed value
    Bill – While I think it is great we have improved our assessed value in the downtown. Far too many Evanston residents are not aware at what price this has cost.

    Because so many of these properties are in TIF’s we are not seeing the reward. We are still paying out on improvements – and the city is not too willing to do any real accounting.

    A more interest graph might show the actual taxes we are getting on these properties going to the city general fund versus assessed value. I realize this would be very time consuming to create and I think it is something the city is not too interested in showing the tax payers!

    Even the new rental highraise at Howard appears to have hidden costs they recently run a large water line to the building and the schools are being asked for concessions.

    I found it interesting the city was using TIF funds to pay for extra down town police protection,

    Yes I think its great we have the development, I like the fact we have a large number of residents in the down town,I am not interested in the down town we had twenty years ago but It many take years to get the money back and by that time the property may be old and run down.

    1. Don’t dismiss assessed value
      Hi Junad,
      Your comment assumes that tax revenue spent in tax increment financing districts is money wasted. I’m sure others would argue the TIF money funds useful public infrastructure improvements that otherwise would have to be paid from the general fund.

      It requires value judgments about spending priorities to reach a conclusion about that — judgments beyond the scope of the story.

      Assessed value does have limitations. For example, because different classes of property are taxed at different rates, different types of construction may yield different levels of revenue to the city.

      But it’s a rough proxy for tax revenue — and also gives an indication of whether people think Evanston is a good place to invest their money.
      — Bill

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