Neighbors hoping to take a vacant lot in the 2nd Ward off the tax rolls and turn it into a city park have run into an obstacle. The Evanston city fund they hoped would pay part of the cost is tapped out.

The proposed 5,542 square foot park site.

Neighbors hoping to take a vacant lot in the 2nd Ward off the tax rolls and turn it into a city park have run into an obstacle. The Evanston city fund they hoped would pay part of the cost is tapped out.

The proposed 5,542 square foot park site.

Members of the Grandmother Park Initiative want to turn the lot at 1125 Dewey Ave., a block-and-a-half from the city’s large Robert Crown Park, into a tot lot, arguing that Crown Park lacks playground equipment for small children.

The proposed park site is shown in red, with existing parks in green. Robert Crown Park is labeled “58” on this detail from a map of Evanston parks.

The group formed after the house on the property burned last June.

1125 Dewey, shortly after the fire.

Leaders of the group estimate the park project will cost about $220,000, and they claim to have raised $10,000 in cash and pledges for the effort so far.

The project has won endorsement from Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl, an endorsement premised on the assumption it would be privately funded.

And a conservation group, CorLands, says it has reached an agreement to purchase the site from IndyMac Bank, which acquired the property in a foreclosure sale after the fire.

CorLands would turn the lot over to the city once it is reimbursed for its acquisition costs.

A conceptual design for the park prepared by the neighbors’ group.

The group has requested $50,000 from the city’s Dempster Plaza Neighborhood Improvement Fund, which was created to receive a slice of anticipated sales tax payments generated by the shopping center a few blocks from the park site.

The payments were intended to be used for projects designed to mitigate community impacts from the shopping center development.

But Assistant City Manager Marty Lyons, in a memo prepared for tonight’s Economic Development Committee meeting, says that because of accounting errors, the fund — instead of having the money the park group wants — actually has a deficit of nearly $34,000.

In addition, Lyons says, because of low occupancy levels at the shopping center, the development isn’t currently generating enough sales tax revenue to replentish the fund.

The neighbors group also plans to seek $80,000 in various other city and state funds for the project.

Last year property taxes on 1125 Dewey were $8,797; annual revenue the city and other govermental units will lose if the site becomes a city park rather than being redeveloped for housing.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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