Sarkis Cafe at 2632 Gross Point Road. (Google Maps image)

Evanston’s Land Use Commission is scheduled to consider Wednesday evening a city staff proposal to rezone a strip of land along Gross Point Road, including the long-time restaurant Sarkis Cafe.

The change would remove the properties from the Central Street Corridor Overlay District zoning adopted in 2008.

City staff says the application of the overlay district rules to these parcels is “detrimental to nearly any improvements proposed on the lots and creates burdensome zoning issues that should not be in place.”

The city staff proposal would affect the properties highlighted in red on this map.

At the time of the rezoning, this area was also down zoned from B2 to B1a, which dramatically reduced the density allowed in the area, increased setback requirements and reduced permitted building heights.

A staff memo says the overlay district regulations have worked further east on Central Street — but combined with the downzoning they’ve discouraged redevelopment at the western edge of the district.

The immediate impetus for the zoning change is an interest by the owners of Sarkis to construct a permanent tent structure for outdoor dining at the cafe, which city staff says is not feasible under the existing zoning.

The staff memo says at least one other property owner in the affected area has been deterred from making improvements to their property by the zoning restrictions.

Neighbors in the area have fought several redevelopment proposals over the years for the property just south of Sarkis, at the corner of Gross Point Road and Crawford Avenue.

Plans to replace what had been a gas station there with a bank branch or a restaurant were ultimately failed to move forward in the face of neighborhood opposition.

Several neighbors have already voiced objections to the new rezoning proposal, and it’s likely the commission will grant a continuance at Wednesday’s meeting and not act on the rezoning request until a meeting in April.


Update 3/31/22: The discussion of the rezoning proposal for the area around Sarkis was postponed at Wednesday night’s meeting until a Land Use Commission meeting on a date to be determined in May when another item related to that area is expected to be on the agenda.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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5 Comments

  1. As a resident of the neighborhood, I will be speaking out FOR Sarkis, a longtime fixture of the community.

    1. Why anyone would oppose them being able to make permanent the tent fixture that has been there for two years and caused zero disruption is beyond me.

      1. There will be NIMBYs opposed to even this gentle initiative, no doubt about it. I fully support Sarkis just as I supported past efforts to bring some more life into my neighborhood.

        1. Thank you for saying that. The NIMBYs will get their hackles up about virtually any change, including converting a defunct church to a preschool. How can we better organize to support good businesses that would like to set up shop along Central? Are you aware of any groups?

  2. I think the tent at Sarkis is fine, but I’m not crazy about more drive thrus and also the possibility of semi-trucks being parked on the roadway or in the alley, which were major questions about the previously proposed cafe. Also, it didn’t offer much variety from the cafes, including Little Island that are there. A bakery might be nice. I called Kevin, owner of Little Island to see what he thought. He said it really doesn’t affect him, i.e., doesn’t plan a drive-up and ok if Sarkis’ wants a tent. He would rather have fewer of Central Street regulations however. I’d actually like to see a small multi-unit affordable housing building on that former gas corner since 2 CTA buses are there, Lovelace is up the street and plenty of household shopping businesses are nearby for families.

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