New projects spur Evanston retail growth

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.

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