Evanston’s Economic Development Committee Wednesday approved a request from city staff to move forward with a preliminary study of whether certain properties at the northwest corner of Evanston should become part of a tax increment financing district.
Paul Zalmezak, the city’s economic development manager, said the study was requested by Alderman Tom Suffredin, whose 6th Ward includes the neighborhood.
A map with the proposed TIF study area highlighted.
The proposed study area would range from Harrison Street north to the city limits and include property along Central Street, Crawford Avenue and Gross Point Road.
Zalmezak said the owners of Sarkis Cafe at 2632 Gross Point Road now own the vacant former gas station site at Gross Point and Crawford. That site, and the CVS drug store at 3333 Central St. had been proposed for redevelopment in a 2007 plan for Central Street that could have seen commercial uses on the ground floor with residential uses above — but there’s been no development on either site.
Zalmezak said he suggested including two neighborhood parks — Lovelace and Bent — within the district boundaries so that TIF funds generated could be used for park improvements.
Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, who chaired the EDC meeting, said she doubted the area would meet state standards for a TIF designation.
Alderman Peter Braithwaite, 2nd Ward, said he wished Suffredin had been at the meeting to explain more about the goals and whether neighbors had been contacted for their feedback.
Zalmezak said he believed the area would qualify as a conservation area under state rules — which he said allows designation when commercial properties in an area haven’t kept up with growth in the rest of the city.
“I don’t want to suggest that northwest Evanston is blighted,” Zalmezak said, but there are some opportunities for development that could create a new “village center” style business district for the area.
“The CVS is the only thing going over there, but it’s in pretty rough shape in my opinion,” Zalmezak added.
Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, noted the shuttered animal hospital and some other vacant properties in the area and suggested it would be worth looking at whether a TIF could be created.
Zalmezak said that, with the committee’s approval, city staff would seek three bids from consultants for the preliminary study, which he estimated was likely to cost around $5,000.