Despite complaints from some neighbors, aldermen Monday voted to give a developer two more years to start a Central Street condo project.

Developer Jack Crocker told the Planning and Development Committee, “This market is virually dead.”

He said he anticipates it will take about two years for the real estate market to work through the current oversupply of condo units.

The Central Street project, Eastwood of Evanston, was approved in March 2007 as a four-story, 51-unit condo project with ground floor retail uses on what was then the site of the Evanston Theater building at 1700-1722 Central St.

Early this year the developer’s asked for a one year extention. With the new delay granted Monday, the developers now will have until April 5, 2011 to get building permits and a year beyond that to complete the project.

Crocker said traffic has been very slow at another project he’s involved with, the Prairie Central development a few blocks to the west.

He said only four of 14 units in that building have been sold.

“In the $450,000 to $800,000 price range in Evanston only about seven condo units went under contract from June through September,” Crocker said.

“Fortunately at our project we had three,” he added, “but that is remarkably low for Evanston. It just indicates the market has virtually stalled.”

Jim Hughes of 2518 Hartzell Ave., a director of the Central Street Neighbors Association, complained that the delay means the city will lose property tax revenue.

The CSNA’s treasurer, Joe Hill, suggested that if the project can’t start soon, the city should buy the property and turn it into a park.

And John Zbesko of 1120 Noyes St., who’s circulating petitions to run for 7th Ward Alderman, said there’s no guarantee that the project will be built even if the two year extension is granted.

Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, responded that a city decision to buy the property would be a sure way to guarantee the site never generates any property tax revenue.

“Until we start nationalizing property,” Rainey said, “if a owner wants to keep property vacant forever, that’s their right. But, how stupid that would be. I’m sure they don’t want to delay the project. I believe Mr. Crocker when he says he wants to build it as soon as he possibly can.”

Alderman Edmund Moran, 6th Ward, said, “The economy is hurting right now and is hurting badly. But Evanston will rebound and be back at it some day.” He said he agreed that it’s likely to take two years for the economy to revive.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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7 Comments

  1. a city park that generates tax revenue
    This is funny:

    Jim Hughes of 2518 Hartzell Ave., a director of the Central Street Neighbors Association, complained that the delay means the city will lose property tax revenue.

    and then:

    The CSNA’s treasurer, Joe Hill, suggested that if the project can’t start soon, the city should buy the property and turn it into a park.

    Is this a civil war within the CSNA? Is Joe Hill
    ‘going rogue’, like Sarah Palin?

    As usual, the CSNA doesn’t seem to know what it wants- or it advocates contradictory positions – to just make life difficult for developers.

    Ann Rainey is right about this…you can’t have a city park AND property tax.

  2. CSNA has done more damage than good
    Jim Hughes suggestion that the city would lose tax revenue with the building delay is silly and duplicitous in nature.

    I’m sure the owners are paying taxes on the vacant lot right now. And if the development was completed, more property taxes would be accrued.

    But to say the city “would lose” property taxes is wrongheaded and shows that Hughes has no idea what he’s talking about. And for Joe Hill, CSNA’s treasurer, to suggest Evanston BUY the property with the city already in debt shows Hill is not much of an accountant.

    If the CSNA is serious, they should elect another director and treasurer, and check their books.

    Or maybe simply disband since there won’t be any new developers coming around with the down market and organized hostile residents.

    I wonder if there’s a way to calculate the amount of damage in potential property tax revenues CSNA has caused?

    If CSNA is so concerned about the vacant lot, then why don’t THEY buy the land and turn it into a park? The same goes for the other vacant lot at the former Kendall college site where the developer simply gave up on his plan because CSNA DEMANDED he only build homes there.

    1. one car is too many
      The Evanston Review has an article about the proposed Aldi on Oakton. As usual, some ‘concerned neighbors’ (i.e., NIMBYs) are opposed to it:

      “Impact on traffic
      Others asked about spill-over from the added traffic, picking up on Holcombe’s estimate that the store would attract some 600 customers a day.

      “I don’t want 600 cars on my street. One car is too many,” said Cheryl Muno..”

      So this is what we are up against…we have residents in Evanston – whether on Central St. or Oakton – who think that any development is bad, because it might possibly bring even one more extra car. One car is too many.

      [We saw the same thing on the lakefront, with the neighbors who were concerned that subdividing a lot to allow ONE more SINGLE FAMILY HOME would increase traffic…]

      So if the NIMBYs have their way, we will prevent ALL development in Evanston, because it might bring in an additional car. We should make Evanston so undesirable that nobody will ever want to move here or even visit for a movie or restaurant, because even one additional car is too many.

      1. Oakton is not tiddlywinks
        “So this is what we are up against…we have residents in Evanston – whether on Central St. or Oakton – who think that any development is bad, because it might possibly bring even one more extra car. One car is too many.”

        MWK — you mock the sentiment that is expressed in this woman’s concern. please allow her the extreme language in expressing herself about an issue that is palpable in the southwest part of town. i don’t think that you have any picture of what traffic is like on Oakton right now.

        try riding east bound along Oakton — generally after 3:00p — from McCormick and you will have an interminable wait. in addition to the Aldi, there is a new development going in right across the street from that site that will be bringing a lot more traffic. and a new stop light that is going to slow things down even more.

        Aldi’s 600 cars are going to be added to the new traffic that is going to be generated by the other development. and all of that is going to be added to what has seemed to be a rapidly increasing traffic flow along Oakton for some time. and as a neighbor, i can tell you that many of those people are finding short cuts through our adjacent residential neighborhood during rush hour periods. and how strange and unusual to have to be talking about “rush hour” in evanston.

        keep in mind that Oakton is a 2 lane road. it is not a 4-lane Ridge Avenue. and while people who moved in along Ridge knew what they were moving next to, none of us adjacent to Oakton ever expected that it would become a major through-fare in the middle of a residential area.

        i do not happen to agree with the woman who you were poking fun at about development. i am glad that something is finally going in to the empty lot. not overly excited or happy about it being an Aldi’s, though. but i do not live on Oakton.

        i think that the larger problem is that the city has not done much to control or manage the traffic issue as it has been developing. it has been getting worse for years now. bring a chair down to Oakton and Dodge some afternoon and sit and watch the traffic flow. those 2 major traffic-bearing streets look like some of the more miserable intersections in our neighbor to the south.

        1. oakton
          Anonymous wrote:

          “try riding east bound along Oakton — generally after 3:00p — from McCormick and you will have an interminable wait. in addition to the Aldi, there is a new development going in right across the street from that site that will be bringing a lot more traffic. and a new stop light that is going to slow things down even more.”

          OK..let’s analyze the situation here.

          1. Evanston Review article says that the estimate was “that the store would attract some 600 customers a day.” That does NOT mean that there will be 600 additional cars on Oakton every day. I suspect that the vast majority of those cars will be people who would have been driving along Oakton anyway – either to the Home Depot or Steak & Shake or whatever. Instead of driving over the the Aldi in Skokie (2 miles west on Oakton), or that other discount food store (can’t remember the name), they can drive to Aldi.

          2. The complaining neighbors were, for the most part, from far EAST of the proposed Aldi. So again, I ask, how will this Aldi create more traffic on their part of Oakton? I suspect that most customers will come by McCormick and not get so far east.
          If customers are coming from east of McCormick, then they again probably already drive on Oakton anyway…they live out there, and do their shopping out west.

          3. You write “try riding east bound along Oakton — generally after 3:00p — from McCormick and you will have an interminable wait” Again, ‘east bound along Oakton–from McCormick’. Who is causing this traffic? Must be the people who live east of McCormick, returning home after work. Who else could it be?

          This is the problem I have when people complain about ‘traffic’. Who is causing this traffic? ‘Other’ people, who are inconsiderate enough to drive on the same road and the same time as you? It seems to me that you are equally to blame.

          If there is too much traffic on Oakton, then I think that the residents of Oakton deserve a good deal of the blame. You don’t want a supermarket next to your house, because it will cause traffic? OK..so then you are going to drive to a supermarket somewhere else , right? And you will be creating a traffic problem in the process, as you drive past your neighbors’ houses on your way to the store.

          I assume that the residents of Oakton also don’t like the traffic caused by Home Depot…but I wonder where they go when they need to buy paint or hardware.

  3. Central Street project delayed (again)
    I hope that Mr. Crocker and his associates are satisfied with their decision to oust “Trullo” so precipitously leaving us without a great restaurant and with a large vacant parcel indefinitely. The Council should not allow demolition of existing businesses without requiring developers to post a large bond which would be forfeited to the City if they do not proceed promptly upon demolition to build.

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