Evanston Mayor Steve Hagerty recalled memories of good times in the buildings that are gone, but said he looks forward to the vitality the new structure will bring to Evanston at groundbreaking ceremonies this morning for the 15-story Albion Residential development on Sherman Avenue.
Pointing to where Tommy Nevin's Pub stood until recently, Hagerty said on their first visit to Evanston 19 years ago he and his wife had stopped there and encountered a stranger who talked to them at the bar for half an hour about how wonderful Evanston is. Later their daughter developed her interest in traditional Irish dance performing there.
And the other restaurant on the building site, Prairie Moon, was the site of election-night parties -- including for his victory in the mayor's race just last year.
"It's tough. Change isn't easy, and we want to be really thoughtful about what change we allow to happen in Evanston," Hagerty said.
But he added that he's proud of the partnership between Albion and the city, and said the new development "is going to generate incredible memories for the more than 400 people who will live there."
The mayor gets a commemorative brick from the site from Albion Vice President Andrew Yule.
"Shopowners will tell you, 'We need more density, more people,'" Hagerty said, and the Albion project will help accomplish that.
"I want to see this city progress and become one of the leading urban ring cities in America," he added. "I'm looking forward to what this means to the vitality of Evanston."
Albion President Jason Koehn, recalling the long process that led to approval of the project, said, "Persistence and patience allowed us to navigate, negotiate and compromise to get where we are today. Nobody got exactly what they wanted -- that's what compromise is all about."
The mayor joins Albion officials and city community development staffers for the ceremonial groundbreaking.
Koehn said he 268 rental apartments in the development would bring more customers for all the restaurants and shops downtown when it opens early in 2020, adding, "We look forward to being a long-term partner with the community of Evanston for years to come."