Major mixed-use development projects have dramatically increased business opportunities for both independent and chain merchants in Evanston this decade.

Shops at Evanston mixed-use development sites

A study of the six major mixed-use developments completed since 2000 shows that sites that housed a total of ten businesses with street-level entrances in 2000 now house at least 34 such businesses.

The number of independent merchants who operate only a single location has risen from five to 13. Small, locally-owned chains have gone from two to four. Franchise operations and national chains have increased from three to 17.

The six projects studied, all with more than 75 condominum units, include 900 Chicago Avenue, Chicago Avenue Place, Church Street Station, Optima Horizons, Optima Towers and Sherman Plaza.

Critics of the proposed 708 Church St. tower development on the Fountain Square block have argued that the project will drive locally-owned businesses out of Evanston.

But Evanston Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Jonathan Perman says, “Claims that new large-scale mixed-use development in Evanston will result in fewer independent businesses are just not grounded in fact.”

“These new developments are seen as opportunities for both existing and new independent businesses to upgrade their spaces, make investments in our city and take advantage of a new influx of shoppers and diners.”

Chamber President-elect Jim Marsh added that in some developments “the chance to be near a major national or regional business is an enticement for the independent business to locate in the project.”

Of the nine businesses displaced by construction of the six projects, eight still have a presence in Evanston, including three of the four independent businesses and new owners of some of the national firms.

Here are details of what happened at each project site:

Church Street Station, 1640 Maple Ave. (2002) 

Former uses were three independent businesses — Joy Yee Noodles, a print shop and a doctor’s office. All relocated within Evanston.

New uses include two independent businesses — The Radiant Smile and That Little Mexican Cafe — plus a branch of Harris Bank, a regional bank owned by Canada’s BMO Financial Group, and Edible Arrangements, a franchise of a national chain. A third independent business at the site, Race Logix, recently relocated to 2601 Prairie Ave. 

Chicago Avenue Place, 1210-1236 Chicago Ave. (2002)

Former uses were a parking lot and a Duxler Tire shop. Duxler Tire is a small chain now with four locations, including one on Green Bay Road in Evanston.

New uses are three independent businesses — The Pony Shop, The Pot Shop and Christopher Duquet Jewelry.

Optima Towers, 800 Davis St. (2002)

Former use was Bank One, a national bank since acquired by Chase Bank.

New uses are three independent businesses — The Tint Shop, Lulu’s Dim Sum and George Salon — plus Argo Tea, a small, privately-owned Chicago-based chain. (There are plans to replace a vacant Quiznos sub shop in the building with a locally-owned convenience store.)

Optima Horizons, 800 Elgin Road (2005)

Former use was a parking lot.

The new use is an independent business, Quartet Copies. Other storefronts in this building are currently vacant.

900 Chicago Ave. (2006)

Former uses were Great Bank, a small regional bank since acquired by Charter One, part of the national Citizens Financial Group, and a martial arts studio. The bank now has a branch across the street. The martial arts studio did not relocate.

New uses include three independent businesses — Evanston Tux, Jim Turner State Farm and The Toby Jug Museum — plus Froots, a franchise of a national restaurant chain. Two other storefronts in this building which had housed indepenent businesses are currently vacant.

Sherman Plaza, 807 Davis St. (2007)

Former uses were two national chains, Citibank and Osco, a city parking garage and a parking lot. Other stores on the site, including Woolworths, a small convenience store and a national chain shoe store, had closed before the property was acquired for redevelopment. 

New uses include an independent business, Lakeside Eye Care; two local chains, Untitled and Rubloff; a small regional chain, Hot Mama; three national franchises, 7-Eleven, GNC and SuperCuts; and 11 national chains, Ann Taylor Loft, Barnes & NobleKaplan Test Prep, Jos. A. Bank, LA FitnessLevi Store, North FacePier One, Red DoorRed Mango and Washington Mutual.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Thanks for the facts
    Dear Bill,
    Thank you for putting reality into print. I always prefer fact to fiction.

  2. New Projects Spur Growth
    Thanks for the story. But I do wish you had specified which of the ones listed were not new additions to Evanston but relocation of long time existing businesses–some that simply moved across the street, or a couple of blocks: Lulu’s, George Salon, Quartet, The Pony Shop, Christopher Duquet, The Pot Shop, The Toby Jug “museum”, and I think Evanston Tux. Also 800 Davis was a bank but I don’t believe it was Bank One. Bank One, now Chase, was previously located at 1603 Orrington. Though this will probably wrongly date me as someone who “objects to development”, I even remember when the building at 1603 Orrington was named for State Bank that sat on that site for many years. 6BT8

  3. Business Good; Other stuff not so good
    Do successful businesses help Evanston’s failing schools, lessen crime, lower taxes, pay for the Fire and Police department’s pensions or improve the landscape?

  4. Businesses Missing?

    This is a very interesting presentation, though I’m reading your summations of the locations, and I notice some businesses have gone unmentioned. My question would be, is this your editing, or is it the studies’?

    Regarding Chicago Avenue Place, their were four “uses” in that location. Aside from the parking lot and the Duxler Tire, there was a car wash (which was not a part of Duxler, and was located at the north end of the building) whose name and later fate is unknown to me, and an Enterprise Rent-A-Car. The Enterprise was relocated to 1001 Chicago, and with that redevelopment pending, relocated again to the Maple Avenue Garage.

    In regards to the Sherman Plaza, there is no mention of three restaurants: Thai Sookdee (relocated), Olive Mountain (relocated), and the Chinese buffet whose name I never quite knew (Five-Star? I don’t believe they relocated). Why were they excluded? Olive Mountain was not “closed before the property was acquired,” and since Champs Sports, the convenience store, and the buffet all closed at roughly the same time – in the face of pending acquisition – how accurate is it to claim that the only “uses” for the Sherman Plaza site were Osco and the garage? It seems like hair-splitting presentation of the facts.

    Also, regarding this: “Duxler Tire is a small chain now with four locations, including one on Green Bay Road in Evanston.” Perhaps it’s the placement of “now,” but that sentence seems to imply that it went from one Chicago Avenue location then, to four now (comma before the “now” maybe – ‘… is a small chain, now with four locations,’ as opposed to ‘… is a small chain now”). When it had its location Chicago, did it not already have three locations – Green Bay Road, Skokie, and Chicago Avenue?

    1. ‘Before’ businesses
      Hi Jim,
      Since I wasn’t here in 2000, I relied on the Chamber’s data to figure out what was on the sites before redevelopment, supplemented by my own checking of the old aerial photo images in the city’s GIS system.
      Unless someone has a 2000 phone book handy, which I don’t, it is difficult to reconstruct precisely what was at a given location at a given time. And in consulting current online listings I still found some businesses listed at addresses which a drive-by revealed were no longer correct.
      Regarding the Sherman Plaza site, a substantial portion of the Davis Street frontage was a parking lot in the 1998 aerial photos. Would that have been the location of some of the businesses you recall?
      I understand Duxler did have the location on Green Bay before it closed the shop on Chicago Avenue.
      My point was not to suggest that there was always a one-for-one replacement of a displaced business with another Evanston location — only that the business, or a successor firm, still maintains a presence in Evanston.
      If you don’t handle it that way, you run into all sorts of confusion about the banks — many of which have consolidated and changed ownership, sometimes multiple times, during the decade. Similarly, Osco’s owners decided to get out of the free-standing drug store business and sold off those stores to CVS. But Osco is still represented in the two Jewel-Osco supermarkets in Evanston.
      We’re really looking at several different questions here:
      * How does redevelopment change the number of businesses on the redevelopment site?
      * How does the ownership structure of the new businesses compare to that of the old ones?
      * Do companies forced to relocate from the redevelopment site continue to have a presence in Evanston?
      Quite apart from the pressure of redevelopment, a business may decide to consolidate its operations in a smaller number of total sites because of slack demand — or to expand to additional locations because of growing demand. What I was trying to assess with the relocation question was simply whether the business still has a presence within the boundaries of Evanston.
      I was quite conservative in judging the number of businesses in the post-redevelopment state. Anything that opened there after redevelopment but had closed by 3/28/08 was excluded. To be comparable, with the “before” data I tried as much as possible to limit it to businesses that were on each site in 2000. If you’ve got documentation of what was on any of the sites that year, I’d love to see it.
      In any case, I think the big fear in town is that major mixed-use redevelopments drive out independent businesses replacing them all with national chains. I think the data, even with the modifications you suggest, still show reality has not borne out that fear.
      — Bill

  5. Bill interesting article – alot of work on your part
    Bill – it appears to me many of the business on the block of the new development have already moved. I have only walked by – I think most stayed in town but that is only an impression not a detailed analysis. I think the important issue is making certain with any new development if it is in a business district the city make certain the retail is maintained on the ground floor and not used up for parking and other non-retail uses. I think it is also important to maintain the small business districts such as Central street and Main street so as business are displaced from the downtown they can go to the neighborhood districts – that is the retail space there must be maintained and not used up for parking on the first floor in the new developments.

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