Hewn seeks tax break for bakery expansion

1729-1731 Central St. is next to the Evanston Art Center building. (Google Maps)

The owners of Hewn Bakery will seek Evanston City Council approval Monday to request a property tax break from Cook County to help fund their expansion into a nearly century-old building on Central Street.

The bakery, owned by Evanston residents Ellen King and Julie Matthei, opened in 2013 with five employees in a 1,200 square foot space at 810 Dempster St.

It has since doubled its space at the Dempster site and the owners say their staff has grown to 25 employees.


"Everything croissants" in an image from the Hewn website.

The bakery features hand-made, artisanal breads and pastries.

In the request for the tax break, the owners say they will use the 1729-1733 Central St. building as a manufacturing hub with a staff of about seven that will enable them to also open two or three new satellite locations.

Hewn's attorney, Christopher Zarek, in a letter to City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz, says the property has been vacant for over a year and will need about $729,000 in repairs and upgrades to make it suitable for bakery use. The roughly 7,500 square foot lot has three small storefronts facing Central Street and a separate warehouse-like building off the alley.

If the Class 6b property tax break is approved, it would allow the bakery owners to recoup about $689,000 of the repair costs in reduced taxes, according to calculations provided by Hewn's attorney, based on having their tax rate reduced from from the standard commercial rate of 25 percent to 10 percent during most of the 12-year term of the agreement.

The tax on the property during the 12 years, the attorney estimates, would still be nearly $564,000 -- or about nine times the estimated $62,000 the property would pay in taxes if it remained vacant.

Zarek says that if the tax break isn't approved, the Hewn owners don't believe it will be financially feasible to remodel the building and will have to look for a location in an area with lower property tax rates.


Update 1:10 p.m.: King tells Evanston Now they plan to close the Dempster Street location once the new Central Street bakery is open.

She says the the existing building, where they rent, has a variety of issues, including lacking air conditioning, which makes working conditions difficult for bakery employees and makes it harder to make pastries, like croissants, in the summer time.

In addition because the current storefront has a basement, its floor can't support the larger ovens they plan to install in the single-story building on Central Street.

Matthei says the new location will provide a better working environment for the employees, and it's only about a two mile drive from the existing one.

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Comments

I'm sure everyone---personal and business..

would like a 'tax-break'---i.e. heads I win, tails you lose aka 'I [may] make a profit, if so I keep it, if I lose,taxpayers eat it.'  Either way taxpayers pay.

Hewn Tax Break Makes Sense

That side of has been bereft of serious retail for years. This is all upside for Evanston and Cook County; the request should be granted and we should help nurture this business that started here, has grown here and is now nationally recognized for excellence. 

Why?

On what basis does a tax break "make sense" for Hewn?

All upside for Evanston and Cook County? Hmm...

Chris, what's "bereft" is your or any analysis to justify giving away taxpayer money to Hewn. I am not "anti-tax break" but I am TOTALLY against giving away money without the analysis and the follow up that not only should be done, but should be reported back to the community.

Remember the former Chicken and Waffle restaurant on Dempster?

I recognize that Hewn is an established and successful business, but that should raise the bar for giving them a tax break.

Agree

I agree.  Generally, businesses do not get a tax break when they change locations.  The public should get to hear what is different about Hewn, that they should get it.  Because they are just moving, the economic gain in Central street is a loss to Dempster, so the case for overall growth does not seem compelling.

What would make sense would be if they building they are proposing to move into is in such a state there there is unlikely to be any business that would occupy it due to the cost of fixing it up, or rebuilding on the site.  In that case, there would have to be some incentive to get it back into use.  There has been a fair amount of property redevelopment in Evanston, so it is not at all clear that this woudl be the case.