Evanston’s Economic Development Committee Tuesday night unanimously recommended that the City Council direct the city manager to negotiate an agreement for Smylie Bros. Brewing Co. to expand into the city’s former recycling center on Oakton Street.
Alderman Melissa Wynne, who chaired the meeting, said the proposal “sounds really exciting” and, noting plans to stress energy efficiency in developing the new brewery, said, alluding to the new Walgreen’s on Chicago Avenue, that it “would be fantastic to have two net zero buildings” in Evanston.
Alderman Melissa Wynne.
Michael Smylie, president of the family-controlled company that runs the existing brewpub on Oak Avenue downtown, said he wasn’t sure the new project could meet the net zero standard but that it offers opportunities — because of its location in a relatively open area — of including wind power and both photovoltaic and thermal solar energy options.
He said that at the Oak Avenue site “we’re seeing 125 to 150 degree water coming off the roof” which means the conventional water heaters there are hardly used. “It’s basically free energy once you pay the up-front cost,” Smylie added.
Johanna Nyden of the city’s economic development staff said the city issued a request for potential developers of the recycling center site to demonstrate their qualifications for such a project.
It received three responses. Two were from what the staff deemed qualified entities, Nyden said, and Smylie Bros. was the one that best met the city’s objective of creating a “destination-oriented use with dining and entertainment opportunities.”
Smylie Bros. listed in its proposal a team of architects and engineers that have worked on several other successful craft brewery projects in the Chicago area and that were involved in developing the existing Smylie Bros. site.
Alderman Ann Rainey, whose 8th Ward includes the recycling center, said, “This is one of the best put-together teams for a project I’ve ever seen.”
Alderman Ann Rainey.
Referring to earlier proposals to have a non-profit group that likely would have needed substantial financial support from the city take over the recycling center for a youth sports facility, Rainey said the earlier proposals “looked like a noose around the city’s neck.”
And, referring to the lakefront mansion that the city leased for decades to a non-profit for $1 a year, she added, “I don’t want another Harley Clarke on Oakton.”
Nyden said staff concluded that rather than go ahead with the next stage of the review process and request formal proposals from would-be developers, the city should, assuming the City Council approved, move directly to negotiating an agreement with Smylie Bros.
Skipping that step means many aspects of a final agreement remain uncertain — including whether the company would lease the recycling center or purchase it from the city.
Alderman Jane Grover, 7th Ward, noted that at one time the city had hoped to see a bowling alley at the recycling center site, but said “this is even better than what we might have imagined for the space.”
“I hope this will be a catalyst for bringing in other youthful recreation and entertainment program that we’ve had in mind for a long time for Evanston,” Grover said.
Alderman Mark Tendam, 6th Ward, said that with a lot of new development happening on the other side of McCormick Avenue in Skokie, “this will be a big draw to get people to cross over and spend more money in Evanston.”
And Smylie added that he anticipates the new brewery would also bring in customers from the Andersonville and Rogers Park neighborhoods in Chicago.
Smylie Bros. wants recycling center (7/6/15)