A new economic development report says Evanstonians are down on the city and its downtown shopping district. It offers a raft of suggestions for how to improve the reality and the perceptions.
The Evanston Thrives report, developed by a consulting firm for the city, has been in the works since last July and has involved interviews with merchants, city staff and local residents.
It’s scheduled to be posted on the city website later today after highlights were reviewed by the city’s Economic Development Committee Wednesday night.
The report, listing six critical factors for success. starts with a plea: “Don’t allow your perception of the city to be a self-fulfilling prophecy.”
It adds, “The business-owners, residents and even local leaders are perpetuating a narrative that Evanston is “dead” or “empty,” which overlooks a lot of the market strengths and uniqueness the city has to offer.”
“Even if Evanston isn’t as vibrant or active as it once was,” the report says, “a community that has given up on itself has no hope for a better future.”
The study calls for the city to commit to funding placemaking activities and for city staff across all departments to get on board with facilitating business development.
It also calls for better cooperation with Northwestern University, saying the university is an economic engine for the city and the city should see the growth and success of the university as a benefit for the city.
The report also calls for better data gathering to aid the city in best investing its limited resources.
And it says downtown doesn’t have to wait for office workers to return to be successful — saying there are opportunities to increase foot traffic downtown, even if office workers never return.
Update 1:45 p.m.: You can now download copies of the 19 page executive summary of the Evanston Thrives – Retail Action Plan and the full 156 page Evanston Thrives – Retail District Action Plan.
Update 5 p.m.: The city is now seeking feedback on the report using this comment form.
Sigh** Evanston is lacking some life. We need to be more attractive. We need better restaurants, facilities aimed towards family fun. Evanston Downtown has become a ghost town. I hope the city brings back The Custard Fair and the Cultural fairs. Have Jazz in the park, mini concert series downtown.
Definitely miss Custer St. fair. Jazz on the lakefront or anywhere else in town would be a real shot in the arm as well. They could get the university to help run it if they’re short on ideas. Monthly shows would increase morale greatly. And make it easy to park! Skokie took out their parking meters years ago, and Wilmette never had them. How is stressing people out about parking being progressive and helping them spend their money? You’ll make it back in commerce
The proposed “fair workweek” ordinance alone is enough to drive businesses away. Unfortunately the City staff and elected officials live in a progressive dream world.
Shame that it took hundreds of thousands of dollars and a consultant to tell our civic leaders that Northwestern is our economic engine. Yet, these are the same leaders who will spend another hundred thousand dollars on a separate study to find out if they can make money on a capital investment of $0.
It feels like we’ve been successfully divided. The fundamentalists- both conservative right & progressive left, have been busily engaged in purging non-belivers be they RINO’s in red areas or racists in blue spheres. Generationally as well.
Boomers vs snowflake anyone?
What remains feels less vibrant, less cohesive, less connected. The pandemic has fueled this trajectory.
The question of whether this rift can or will be mended remains open. Perhaps a mutual threat from the external world will unite us vs an agreed upon Other (be it another group or some possibility of mutual suffering/survival).
The results of this division are similar to the findings of this report. It feels we are less than we used to be.
More than one nation, divisble, with mutually exclusive ideals of liberty and justice for those who agree with one’s belief system.
Your post is a bit much for an article about Downtown revitalization, don’t you think?
Perhaps. The report is the micro. I zoomed out to the macro & attempted to connect the two. The pervasive negativity is the link.
Did city government pay a consulting firm to say that we are “perpetuating a narrative” regarding the dire conditions of downtown Evanston? Facts, not perceptions: shops are closed, building are vacant and panhandling is worse. I do not know any residents who WANT to give up. So tell us something, Committee, that we don’t already know. You say we need a better relationship with Northwestern – is that really a newsflash? Or “opportunities for foot traffic” – please, do share. Live music, a working fountain, outdoor food carts and vendors, a good Italian restaurant, an ice cream parlor, what about a karaoke bar, a bowling alley, a dance club? I could go on but every one of these suggestions, there will committee, a hearing, public outcry, zoning issues, protests and multiple meetings. Nothing is ever easy in this town, making it daunting and sometimes an exercise in futility for business owners to try to set up shop here. But we are “perpetuating a narrative.” Really?
Everything you have written above is an elegant summary of years (decades) of frustration. Years ago consultants and developers talk about “activating the plaza” and delivered disappointment over and over again. A bowling alley was too hard to develop… a dance club sounds fabulous…. a proposal of a gift to the city (yes, and NU) of a venue for concerts and sporting events turns into a legal battle that just feels like (to me) adults behaving badly. Some days it feels like Evanston has just become a high priced petri dish of rancor rather than a community of creative problem solvers and the ‘Heavenston’ once emblazoned on sweatshirts long ago.
That’s right, as long as “Our Betters” continue to allow outfits like Connections for the Homeless (as a major glaring example) to have apparent city “priority” for “equity” reasons, *this* Evanston resident and many others will continue to have a “negative” attitude. I’ve talked to a number of our smaller long – time business owners on Davis Street, for example, and they are fed up with the much – increased panhandling, vagrancy, and general mayhem that the homeless have brought with them in the last several years. This is I guess is “by design”, as our Evanston government officials (in collusion with Connection) have basically declared Evanston a “safe haven” for any and all homeless. I never visit the downtown Target, as I’m tired of being accosted; my co- workers who use the Davis L station have many stories about the bad stuff they observe there, etcetera. Several downtown restaurant owners have told me they have repeated issues with disruptive vagrants coming into their establishments and causing trouble. Scores of 911 calls per *year* for the Margarita Inn homeless shelter that is located in a dense – and formerly pretty safe – residential neighborhood… the list *tiresomely* goes on and on…
Combine the above with all of the needless proposed penny – ante business restrictions, e.g. bag taxes, “cash – only” directives, etc., and why on earth would any business be drawn to Evanston – or even continue operating here?
Why do we hire some “consultant” to do what our city officials *should* be doing – simply going out on the streets to talk to us and to observe what we see every single day? I have repeatedly tried to contact my local alderman, Nieuwsma, about the Margarita/homeless issues, for example, and I’ve been completely ignored… it’s the same with my neighbors and those Davis Street business owners…
Gregory Morrow – Evanston 4th Ward resident
One day last summer a homeless person came onto the train with a knife yelling at another homeless person. Both eventually left and the remaining passengers simply shrugged off the whole ordeal.
This wasn’t on the Red Line, this was at the Davis Street station. But please tell me more about this narrative that we’re perpetuating.
Jim, this is what happens when you have a methadone clinic directly across from the Davis stop, and Connections for the Homeless and Biss & Company encouraging non – Evanstonians to “visit” for “services”, including lodging 65 homeless at the Margarita Inn just a block away, *plus* CFTH Hilda’s Place drop – in homeless services center several blocks east (Hilda’s was just awarded a two million dollar grant to “improve” that facility) Connections generously provides the transit passes for them to come here. Every morning a big clot of homeless can be seen hanging out at the station. We are fast on track to becoming Portland or San Francisco…
At 8:00 AM on my way to work today I saw several vagrants panhandling in front of Bennison’s Bakery – vagrants pollute that corner all day and every day; one morning there were feces smeared on Bennison’s door. Bennison’s is opening a new store in neighboring Wilmette – I wouldn’t be surprised it they move their whole operation up there, as there is only so much a business can endure… and every single business on that Davis St. stretch has similar stories, as I’ve talked to them all…
Speaking of “work”, I work out of an office at the downtown Evanston Public Library. This too, has become a “safe haven” for vagrants. Every day I see some sort of “disruptive situation”; I constantly “check my surroundings” when outside of our locked office. The EPL’s “response” to this mayhem? “We are going to hire a social worker to address the needs of those in our ‘unhoused’ community”…
Gregory Morrow – Evanston 4th Ward resident and Margarita Inn “neighbor”
Mary – you are correct. Our government bureaucracy is mind numbing. Make your plan and work you plan. Pretty basic economic thinking. We over think everything in this town to it’s detriment.
Evanston needs better restaurants and retail stores.
Some nice bar/restaurants to attract students and permanent residents alike would be good, too. There’s no good place to meet a friend for a drink!
Other college towns and North Shore suburbs are much more inviting.
Seems like Evanston tries to drive away businesses with its excessive regulations.
We need reasons people want to spend money and frequent downtown Evanston. There are too many noodle, bubble tea and coffee places. Most of downtown Evanston is geared towards college students who want a cheap meal (nothing wrong with that). But Evanston needs to attract people that will want to visit Evanston and spend money. Parking is a hinderance. Panhandlers are a hindrance. Adults zipping along on their bikes on sidewalks for pedestrians is a hinderance.
Perhaps downtown Evanston needs a visitors center open on weekends that can show people what they can do here and how to do it. Maybe get a day pass where you can enjoy the beach and restaurants and shops with a discounted pass for xyz amount on a meal or item over xyz amount. People bike PAST Evanston all summer long and don’t stop because of bike thefts, panhandlers and other hinderances. Make Evanston a social spending destination. Not just a social studies class. The same goes for motorcyclists. Evanston is missing out on a demographic of consumer (Harley enthusiasts) that spends money when out and about in groups.
A lot of people are bypassing spending money in Evanston in lieu of the safety and beauty of other Northshore communities (Wilmette and Winnetka ) or just having more fun in Chicago and avoiding the burbs all together.
There’s something very disturbing to me about the report labeling people who gave their honest opinions as being guilty of “perpetuating a narrative” and not just accurately reflecting how those people feel. Most everyone’s daily material circumstances are worse, or teetering on worse, and civic institutions – schools, local government, etc – are failing in leadership and direction. Everyone I know thinks that.
Similarly, the line about “prophecies” being self-fulfilling. Blaming Evanston’s downturn on people who recognize it leave those with political power totally off the hook for their own mis-management. Actual decisions cause our problems, not people’s outlooks or moods.
I’ll have to read the whole report when it’s published, but the weird language quoted here seems to be more directed towards soothing the egos of the people spending more money on reports and less towards reflecting the views of people who have to live with the results. This is cowardly HR / consultant speak, very un-democratic too.
You are right on. I have worked in market research for many years. This report is clearly slanted with intent of ignoring the real issues and blaming decent citizens for the scary decline. Connections, Devon Reed and Albany Care are priority voices to Dan Biss, Niewsma.
Evanston is a case study in poor city leadership.
I agree. Our city loves to pay consultants to tell them what they want to hear.
Maybe if the city’s leaders stopped treating residents and small businesses like errant children who require bag taxes, bans on cashless purchases, etc, Evanston would feel more pleasurable.
Find ways to celebrate the city’s downtown area: create themed shopping days, invite businesses to open downtown pop-up shops and see what sticks.
Evanston should not be the city where fun goes to die.
On a recent nice day, I walked around downtown Evanston. There are too many panhandlers, too many closed shops, and the overall vibe is one of a neighborhood in decline. The City Council, with its Progressive agenda, seems to be going out of its way to discourage businesses from coming here. In their desire to help the few, they are dead set on overlooking the many.
This aptly titled article “the negativity is palpable” could serve as Evanston’s new slogan unfortunately.
As previous comments point out, disincentives for business, tone-deaf and inexperienced social justice warrior elected officials, and strong competition from neighboring suburbs who are getting it all right, have led to the palpable negativity.
Add to the mix Evanston’s welcome mat and favored treatment of many of Cook county’s vagrants, criminals, “homeless”, and aggressive panhandlers, and we already have exactly what is described as a “self-fulfilling prophecy”.
This town is being ruined by Facebook groups full of disgruntled former City employees and people with nothing better to do than complain and moan about everything. Everyone wants this City to be some utopia full of small local businesses, but it can’t be that way because these radicalized groups of bored people with no hobbies or interests hold this city hostage with their yard signs and NIMBY advocacy on social media. The residents want everything to free all while keeping their property taxes frozen in time. All any prospective business has to do is simply Google Evanston to see how dysfunctional the residents and City Council are. Absolute embarrassment. Get a life. Go outside. Enjoy the free beaches and dog beach you fought for. Just don’t come complaining when your property taxes go up to help pay for your stupidity.
I’ve said it before and I will say it again: Evanston has fallen by the wayside. For such a “progressive” place, the only outcomes I see are regressive.
There is nothing inviting or interesting about downtown Evanston. The restaurant scene is dull, lackluster and scarce. The bar scene is non existent. Non existent in a Big Ten city!? How can that be? I am pretty positive that there are many, many people who would love to have some unique and welcoming dining/bar options to frequent. They just don’t exist.
I really felt like we were on the right path when Boltwood, Farmhouse, Found, Smylie Bros and a handful of other restaurant and breweries had opened up. Not one of the aforementioned places exists anymore. In their places we have more cookie-cutter, over-priced establishments, void of any character or spirit.
Instead of spending an indecent amount of money to establish what is wrong, can’t the city incentivize entrepreneurs to open up new businesses? Why doesn’t it make sense for the city to make business easier to do here and collect the taxes of of that vs. taxing everyone and regulating everything to the kingdom come? Subsidize some retail. Give new businesses tax breaks. Once the ball gets rolling, and more businesses start moving in, things and citizens will be much better off.
In conclusion, I honestly think I could do a better job than the jackalopes running this city!
Since common sense is no longer common we need to pay huge amounts of money to consultants to tell the city what they should have already known. But, as I point out, common sense is a rarity these days.
I live in Northwest Evanston and enjoy shopping on Dempster, Golf in the western towns, Morton Grove etc. There is no attraction to downtown Evanston for me if I want a top line store I will go to Westfield. I became very disillusioned with Evanston when the city went to credit card parking. There were some specialty stores that used to make me break this habit but most have now gone. If there is one issue that keeps me away from downtown it is parking. When a downtown area like this goes into decline it’s very hard to reverse it. Farmers markets art shows innovative retail, open air entertainment that kind of thing could turn it around, I would advise pulling out all the stops, if you aren’t really sure what to do try doing everything! I’m talking Xsports skateboarding bicycle races dog shows open air basketball. If landlords lower their rents then tenants can be found but how much is property taxes stopping them do that ? I don’t feel that a consultant is required for these things maybe if the city could hire an events and promotions director someone who could generate a bit of excitement someone with an imagination. Of course the pack of muppets that manage the city would have to hire a consultant to tell them who to hire!
Thank you Evanston Now for covering the Economic Development Committee meeting. I am hopeful that all of your readers, especially your regularly engaged commenters, will spend some time reading the report and provide constructive feedback. Here is the link to the study: https://www.cityofevanston.org/business/evanston-thrives
Thank you for sticking with Evanston when so many people have left this City to persue employment elsewhere. I am writing to you as a 19 year employee of a downtown Evanston business. I have accompanied my bosses to show vacant spaces about 35 times over the last three years.These spaces were not empty before the pandemic and their business has always been solid. At these showings, in at least 12 instances, there was a panhandler, homeless, or mentally ill person who happened to be in the area and who aggressively trailed us during the showings and made the encounter extremely uncomfortable. One time, a half dressed man drunkenly shouted at our prospect at 10 am, got in her personal space, and made threatening comments. She, literally, ran away. The prospects who encountered aggressive panhandling never came back, nor did they return our calls. Other times, we showed our spaces and later watched as these very same prospects went on to sign leases in buildings in Wilmette or other suburbs. We have actively courted owners and stated that we can help create very competitive lease structures and/ or build out packages. We had multiple business owners tell us flatly that they did not want to open a business in Evanston no matter what we offered them and that Evanston is too difficult to work in and asked us if we had commercial property available in other towns. One of my bosses requested an in person meeting with the Alderman who “manages” the lion’s part of Downtown. My boss returned from those meetings so upset and basically said that they have no tools to work actively and constructively with the Alderman, that the alderman either did not believe what he heard, or simply did not care. No change occurred after those meetings and no one checked to see if conditions were improving. The spaces are still vacant, and we will continue to do our best to rent them. However, no matter what this study says, the people who make laws that govern Evanston’s business are in no way actually interested in finding out how to help business, let alone encourage it. They view their term as councilmembers as a platform to advocate for the less fortunate and an opportunity to pass new and progressive laws and programs, regardless of the impact on the business community. There is only so much a business community can take. Running a small business in itself is very hard. The only reason I am taking the time to write this post is because, as a 19 year employee, whose life has been changed by consistent employment by a caring and reliable business minded person, I feel that this feedback is all I can do to thank them for giving me a job and stand up for them. However, there is no real incentive for businesses to stay in Evanston. Business owners are treated so poorly and it’s difficult enough to succeed and make enough money to pay people well that it is simply not worth the aggravation of dealing with a City with this kind of political bent. Paul, thank you for your contributions to Evanston, but no matter what this report says, and no matter how hard you work to convince people that the downtown will recover, you will not be able to change the votes of an anti-business social-service obsessed City council.
The consultants are telling residents to have a better attitude “Even if Evanston isn’t as vibrant or active as it once was.”
How much did he city pay for that brilliant insight?
The answer is more downtown residential development. People want to live in downtown Evanston but there are few new rental properties, all of which are close to 100% occupancy. More residents means more people eating in restaurants, shopping in retail establishments, and walking the streets. And with remote work, residents are out and about during weekdays, not just the evenings and weekends.
Of course, new residential development has an important added bonus of generating net new property tax revenue.
Unfortunately, the only housing that our city council and mayor have cared enough about to advocate for has been the Margarita Inn. Other developments have languished for years. There appears to be opposition to buildings above 6 or 7 stories. So why hasn’t city council gotten creative and offered incentives to developers to make low-rise housing more financially viable to build? Or, city council could do what they’re doing for the Margarita Inn – ignore neighbor complaints and push through the proposed development at the corner of Chicago Avenue and Church Street.
Totally agree. Downtown needs more housing, especially rentals. I was just in DC visiting friends and the suburbs (Arlington, Bethesda, and Silver Spring) I saw were absolutely roaring with new housing, foot traffic, and business activity. Evanston should take a page out of this playbook.
I’ll bet you money-the big solve will be creating some sort of dumbed down strip mall. We need to overhaul the staff on our economic development group. Let’s look at contiguous communities like Wilmette, Andersonville, etc. Let’s see how they have kept their merchant areas vital. Bring in new talent. The town is begging for it!
There is no inherent social scene in downtown Evanston, as far as I can tell. It’s not fun or socially fulfilling to live here if you’re not connected to a church, charity, or school system. More restaurants, retail, rug stores, and offices will not fix the lifelessness. I think it’s going to take some real imagination and leadership to make downtown a good place to be. Right now, it’s just not desirable.
I went to Starbucks a week ago, and not only was it kind of depressing on the inside, but 3 male panhandlers kept going in and out of the doors continuously for an hour, looking in the garbage cans, getting cups of water, and checking the (all gender!) bathrooms. When I left, there was a female NU student tending to a sobbing woman: “You have to help me-ee-ee-eee.” I pay $5 for coffee to experience a different environment. Well, I sure got that, but I won’t be a repeat customer. This place has changed.
“But other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play…???”
I just perused the “Evanston Thrives” reports – those snappy 80’s graphics and the many suggestions about fonts for signage sure do “hit the spot” as regards to addressing the issues bedeviling Evanston…
Gregory ‘The negativity is palpable’ Morrow – Evanston 4th Ward resident
Yep I was working in Starbucks recently and a homeless person kept yelling and pacing back and forth right in front of me for 30+ minutes. It made it impossible to get work done. These types of experiences make people avoid Evanston businesses
I’m consistently confused by city officials when I read these articles. Who is shocked that businesses don’t want to move in? That no one wants to go downtown? That downtown Evanston more and more resembles Portland or SF?
I have since moved out, completely out of state, but before I left I went to the Evanston library downtown. My experience: I had to pay for parking to use the library, I felt incredibly uncomfortable as a single female with the masses of rough looking homeless men gathered around and in the library, and down town was virtually dead. I used to love going to downtown Evanston, enjoyed being able to eat out, walk around. There were obviously a few panhandlers but I never felt unsafe. Jump to a few months ago when I vowed after leaving the library I would never go back to downtown. How are these city officials not listening? Or caring? People need to feel safe, business owners need to feel valued; mind blowing that everyone else can see what these officials apparently cannot. They need to work fast if they want to revitalize downtown, but given no one seems to listen to the TAX PAYING CITIZENS, I can’t imagine a great future. Really sad.
A lot of these whiny over the top comments being posted are another reason Evanston has become super lame. The people who live in Evanston and take the time to comment negatively on posts like this aren’t the good neighbors they think they are. Evanston isn’t that bad. It has real potential to improve. Regardless tho, my wife and I can’t wait to move out because the property taxes are simply pricing us out.
I don’t see the commenters as whiny at all, they are just expressing a real sadness that Evanston, with all its great potential, is squandering our potential and leaving just a shell of the town Evanston once was and should be. This problem requires vision and actual thoughtful planning that focuses on the future not the past.
I am not confident that the current administration and staff can do that planning or have that vision. We spend a lot of money on surveys, studies, and consulting to what end? This town needs leadership and then, maybe, we can start over and build something for 2025 and beyond.
The consultants’ report was clearly pre-biased to blame residents for “self-fulfilling project.”
Actually, we residents have been alerting city leadership of the ongoing decline, with hopes that they would wake up and stop the nonsensical woke extremism pedaled by the likes of Devon Reed.
Instead, they doubled down on community-destroying priorities, gutting EPD and attracting vagrant to from all over Cook County.
Just last week, a new non-Evanston vagrant at Church & Orrington was screaming foul language, spinning in circles, barking, rolling on the sidewalk. I have a video that was ignored by Niewsma and Kelly. The police were called by several bystanders to no avail. Same guy showed up at library, acting out, barking, twirling. Police reported that this is acceptable behavior until someone is actually hurt.
If you are thinking about going shopping and dinner, why would you choose to expose yourself to this abhorrent environment?
We are on a clear path to Portland crime, drugs, filth, empty downtown.
It does seem a little silly that we need a consultant to tell us to have a better attitude…until you read all these comments. Maybe she’s onto something.
Hank, I would disagree that those posting aren’t good neighbors or super lame.
Good you are looking to leave as it appears this is the trend…bet it for tax reasons, housing cost reasons, or just tired of the decline and ruination of Evanston by Mayor Biss and his council.
I know noone wants to hear this but pan handling is protected. IL is working on a law to limit when/how pan handling can occur, so I suggest you all reach out to your reps to voice your opinions on that.
However, EPD could and should do better at protecting businesses against feces on their doors and people being verbally attacked outside parking garages and train stations. City Council should look at it’s own version of what the state is trying to pass to better protect businesses and residents.
Yes, panhandling is protected speech. But why is the city council – through handouts, free housing, and free food – IMPORTING more panhandlers (aka addicts, criminals, and drunks)? These freeloaders aren’t homeless, they are taking advantage of our kindness. I won’t shop at the downtown Target anymore. He stands right at the entrance and asks for money. He does this every day. What about my rights to shop without being accosted? Why can’t we keep them 50 feet from entrances? They smoke, and they smell. I want them to leave me alone. They scare me.
I would like to hear what the city manager and Mayor Biss (and the council members) think about all these negative comments posted here. Why don’t they ever respond? The city manager, Mr. Stowe, never says a word at council meetings. All the mayor ever says to the speakers is you have 30 more seconds.
My goodness, is anyone in charge in Evanston?
Panhandling may be protected speech but there are other things known as “assault” and “battery” which are not protected.
Many of the anecdotes on this comment page clearly cross the line into assault. Assault is typically when someone without the target’s permission moves into close proximity, or verbally begins to engage someone and refuses to stop and withdraw, creating a reasonable fear of battery. Assault does not require physical contact.
Battery is any unwanted purposeful physical contact – even possibly the touch of a finger.
If the police are not enforcing those laws, it is because they have been instructed not to…
I’d to take a moment to thank everyone here who took the time to leave an opinion/comment about this article. Please contact your Council Person until you reach them and convey your sentiments. (Don’t forget to vote – do we really want to perpetuate the status quo?)
I also want to take a moment to refresh everyone’s memory that we are just beginning what might be our Post COVID community experience… But I am the first to agree about many of the themes in these comments… Too many consultants, costing too much money and often engaged as a way to arrive at a favorable conclusion by the party requesting it. (We employ qualified staff – if they are not qualified, we should ask them to move on!).
Yes, the homeless situation and all its accompanying problems are being exacerbated by way too friendly departments here who are administering to this population, and it has affected business and street life significantly. Especially for those like me, who just want to enter the Jewel on Chicago Avenue or get a cup of coffee at one of many cafes without the in-your-face panhandling.
Parking… If you want more downtown business, then re-open the wonderful policy of the “First Hour is Free” at the City Garages downtown! And, while we are at it, free after 6 PM and free on Sundays.
Conduct at least 3 Community Action meetings to breakdown into smaller groups and share new ideas and best practices… There are a lot of smart people in Evanston and they “consult” at no charge!
Don’t forget to write, or better, call your Council person ASAP, and attend your Ward meetings!
Respectfully submitted, Brian G. Becharas
There is a large and successful car club focused exclusively on antique European cars (Jaguar, MG, Ferrari, BMW, Alfa Romeo, etc.) called Fuelfed. This club usually display’s well over 50 antique European cars of their members in their meet-ups. At present they meet about once a month on a Sunday in early am in downtown Winnetka east of the tracks, where several blocks are closed off for Fuelfed cars only (but all pedestrians are welcome). The street entrance to this area is secured by volunteers and used of bathroom is gladly provided by two restaurants in this area (no port-o-pots needed). Winnetka city government and their community welcomes them with open arms and Lake Forest also hosts them on occasion – the reason is that they see these events as beneficial to there downtown and the community overall.
When the organizer of this club (who ironically lives in Evanston) approached the City of Evanston a few years back about having similar well-proven club events in Evanston, I am told that the club was met with onerous requirements for private security, expensive permits, and the requirement to rent numerous expensive port-o-pots. Evanston city government just doesn’t get the fact that thankfully we live in a largely free-market, where cities are competing for businesses, competing for residents, and competing for organizations willing to partner with a community to offer cool things that bring life into a dead downtown area. The city should be paying them to come to Evanston, not the other way around as we do not live in a bubble. Unfortunately it is going to take more than free downtown parking to get people to want to come back downtown to shop and eat with the current downtown state of affairs.
Our attempts to work with our elected officials on methods to deter the “legal” panhandling has not been fruitful. Even within the confines of the laws, our City could implement a plan similar to the one Evanston created in the mid 90s. That plan included educating the naive givers, confronting the numerous takers, signage, and other tools that ultimately made Evanston a less desirable place to aggressively panhandle. This helped make Evanston a desirable destination.
And to those givers who think the panhandlers are harmless, as someone who was assaulted by the regular aggressive panhandler in front of Target on Sherman, I’m here to tell you that many of them are DANGEROUS.
I really like the comment regarding hosting an antique car show! I’m afraid our elected officials would view this as inequitable and marginalizing to some groups…..I wish I was joking.
Reality: crime (EPD reports), assaults on my spouse and 3 neighbors, feces and trash piles at Davis stop, assaults of business workers, threatening aggressive panhandling, gutting EPD.
Is it “whiny” to wish Evanston’s reality were different? The whole point in calling out these issues is to motivate City Leadership to PRIORITIZE things that are actual civic priorities, not silly shenanigans like boobs on the beach, bag taxes, and endless searching for “equity violations” in one of the most woke cities in the country.
All validated in crime reports, photos, videos.
To Jennifer Lee:
Thank you for your comment. Your background and experiences lend great credibility to your comment. And you nailed the issue accurately and professionally.
Mayor Biss and all elected officials and City staff reading this, please take this very seriously and refrain from your go-to dismissive attitude towards those who may have different views, facts, and experiences.
The dialogue in these comments can be an integral part of our solution to the revitalization of downtown. Read, digest, and contemplate their implications please.
After reading all these comments, all 42 of them, the city manager and the mayor must respond.
I have read in “Evanston Now” that 80% of our city staff does live in our city. The city manager does not live in our city. Is this part of the problem?
The lack of action by our city leaders is shameful. What is it going to take to require action from our city officials?
I must agree with Mr. Sheldon… this should be required reading for The Mayor, City Manager, and all of our elected officials.
The perception of this “Palpable Negativity” is, in my humble opinion, a reflection of our leadership’s inability to hold the tension of competing ideas and the process required to air all points of view with respect. Then, take the necessary time to discern as a collective our communal next step/s – for making important decisions that affect the entire community.
Agitation and turbulence are not bad things when managed with respect and curiosity… They can reveal what has not been seen or understood and deliver new (and often better) ideas.
Respectfully, Brian G. Becharas
A friend asked our 4th Ward Alderman, Jonathan Nieuwsma, if he read all of the articles re: The Margarita Inn/homeless issues here at ‘Evanston Now’ and other local news outlets…
His response? “I read the articles, but I never read the comments…”
That’s what we are up against – they won’t consider anything but opinions that reinforce their already – decided upon “narratives”…
Gregory Morrow – Evanston 4th Ward resident
What I just don’t understand is… why doesn’t every elected Council Person survey their constituents… I’m sure that managing a regular Survey Monkey-like approach is taxing (please forgive the expression)… but sampling every respondent in their constituency would enfranchise the people’s will – which our leaders are supposed to be executing on our behalf. At worst, it would spark a conversation about the issue with added perspectives.
Respectfully submitted, Brian G. Becharas
Our alderpersons don’t have individual offices with phones, or even a common office with a shared clerk to take messages. There is no good way constituents can call with questions, comments etc… This is as I found out when I tried to call my alder several years ago. My alder was reachable via her personal phone # (and seemed rather irritated to be called on it.
This says a lot about the level of interest that city leaders have in what their constituents think.
What a pathetic report. Beautifully produced, nice graphics and design. Not one mention of parking issues in the executive summary that I could find. The cost of parking in downtown Evanston and on Central St act as déterrents for folks to come to Evanston. They can eat at Wilmette restaurants without worrying about parking fees and tickets, for example.
Any consultant company that does not recognize the already ridiculously “symbiotic” relationship between N.U.and this city is worth nothing. Many Evanston longtime residents resent this already too close relationship because it has mostly been quite one sided, with feeble efforts on N.U’s part to “give back” to the community, but not much in the way of meaningful support as other large universities provide in other cities around the country.
As usual, the city has paid googobs of cash to a company that has given us not much. Have major events that will be a draw to the community? Duh! As another reader suggested, bring back the formerly beloved Custer Street Art Fair! This is not rocket science.
If Evanston wants more people coming to its business districts, it has to make it easier to do. And the prime driver of its complication is the parking situation. High fees continue to drive people away, period.
Our downtown will thrive when it has sufficient pedestrian traffic. Busy sidewalks make for safer streets. Raise our crosswalks and curb cuts to slow violent drivers and joyriders with illegal exhausts so that Evanston doesn’t feel like Fury Road. The dangerous blight that is Ridge is a zone of lawlessness and violent driving that cuts our community in two and inhibits Evanstonians from shopping and dining in our own downtown. We need to slow down every single street near the city core—and do it with infrastructure, not signage. Get the ridiculous traffic signals (?!) out of our downtown area and replace them with four way stops. Provide attractive destinations on the lakefront to filter people through downtown; take advantage of Evanston’s glut of parking; and encourage residential development in the city’s core.
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