Evanston’s Economic Development Committee tonight is scheduled to review requests from two businesses for facade improvement grants.

Bramer Animal Hospital is seeking $10,000 to improve the look of its long-time home at 1021 Davis St.

Top: A rendering showing the planned changes to Bramer’s facade. Above: A photo of how the Bramer building looks today.

The Bramer proposal would increase the window area of the building and replace the existing entry doors and signage. The low bid for the facade project is just under $40,000 and the owners are planning to spend a similar amount on interior upgrades to the front of the hospital building.

And owners of Chicago’s Home of Chicken and Waffles are seeking $7,947 for new signage on the restaurant, which is scheduled to open next year at 2424 Dempster St.

A rendering of the proposed restaurant signage.

The restaurant project has already received city help in the form of a $200,000 gap financing loan at 5.75% interest over a five year term with 20 year amortization and six months of interest-only payments.

The city budgeted $75,000 for the facade improvement program for 2012. If these two projects are approved, it will still have over $17,000 left in the budget with just a month left to go in the year.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Give them the money

    The restaurant is at one of the very busy western entrances to the city. Give them the money.

    1. Is that all I have to do?

      Seymour, Is that all I have to do?  Open a businees on a busy thoroughfare and I get free money?  Where do I sign up?

  2. Terrible use of money

    Sure, a new front of a building looks nice.

    However, in light of the fact that our city can not even fully fund police pensions, and is using this facade improvement program as a way to increase revenue….

    I do not understand how updating the front of an animal hospital will bring in more tax revenue to Evanston?

    and more money to the breakfast place? 

    I don't care where the businesses are located.  This facade improvement program looks is a waste of $75,000 of tax payer money- throwing back a few extra dollars to businesses that the city council likes.

    For example,  a relatively new restaurant on Central street (French wine bar where 7/11 used to be) also applied for facade improvement funds, even though they actually renovated the whole front just before opening a year ago-   If that restaurants believes they can make more money, and thus more tax revenue, by renovating their facade or improving signage again, why don't they pay for it themselves?

    When does this city spending stop?   Let the businesses pay for improvements themselves.






    1. Ask and they will pay?

      Should Evanston's city government adopt the motto "Ask and we wil pay" ?

      Does Evanston and esp. the city government have a state-wide [national?] reputation as a bunch of rubes who will approve a business and then have them request money to do what they propose—and the city pay it!

      Surely we should have better government than that.

      How many of the gifts the Council have made have paid off in better earnings and thus the increased taxes paid that the city can use to make up for the taxpayers expense ?

      Don't any of the business groups collect fees from their members that allow them to make full recourse loans to other businesses ?   The Counicl–really taxpayers-should not be picking "winners?",  If the city would not postpone decisions forever [e.g. zoning hearings, review of every detail in the companies plans) and keep ALL taxes down, maybe more firms would be interested in coming to Evanston and not have to ask for gifts to make up the hole in their budget spent on dealing with all the city's [useless] regulations.

  3. What was included in the original waffle restaurant grant budget

    Aside from the issue of why, after so many years, Bramer now thinks that they require a new front to attract business (as if the passing dogs and cats might go elsewhere on their own?), the bigger question is the Chicago Chicken and Waffle request.

    Now that we see in this restaurant rendering that they are using cheap Dryvit (yes that fake synthetic stucco stuff that nearly every strip mall along Dempster in Skokie uses to hide their frontse), it would seem to me that the City's Site Plan & Appearance Committee reviewed this facade when the building was proposed and would have been shown a sign above the door. (Why, of course, would they have accepted such a dismal front is another question but maybe they felt it was in keeping with the car wash and auto repair mall on that side of the street)

    Furthermore, I have to believe the City Planning staff reviewed all of the proposed expenditures before they went to the City Council and got approval for the $200,000 in funding for the restaurant project (remember folks we used grant money to help them build this facility as was discussed on these pages earlier this year and as Bill reminds us of in his article).

    Was no signage included back then in any of these presentations? I find it hard to believe that either the presentation or the budget did not include signage in the renderings.

    Conclusions:  1)  Restaurant needs more money and is looking for a deep pocket  to help them out. 2) City staff realizes that they have not spent their signage  or "facade beautification" budget and, rather than return it to the coffers for better or future use, seeks to justify and maybe increase the budget for next year by quickly spending it now.

    Bill indicates there may be $17,000 left after this set of grants. Should we hold a competition as to other "deserving" facades?  How about the video store and the other buildings slated to be torn down for Trader Joe's (the fence is already up) they look rather shabby and a facade upgrade would help Chicago Avenue, if only for a month or so during the holiday season?  What about the proposed gas station on Main Street or the new branch bank on Central Street? Maybe they both need signage, but "left" that item out of their budgets as well?  Better yet, how about a signage and facade improvement grant for the new NU Visitors Center or is that not considered a commercial venture?


  4. Why are taxpayers bankrolling businesses?

    I would like to know how many, if any, businesses applied but were denied a facade grant, and why.

    I heard a business owner had complained to the city that his competitor received a large amount in a facade grant and the city shelved the program for further review.

    Are there other incidents where the city acted as a bank and loaned out money to an existing business?

    Gee, I wonder if any of the 11 nail salons and barbershsops on Howard Street could use a new facade. Ann Rainey should look into it rather than abusing government powers to run these businesses out of town because they don't fit with her idea of utopia.


  5. Design standards in downtown Evanston

    If the City is being asked to provide funding for facade improvement, the least it should do is provide some facade design standards for all the businesses so we have a consistent look and feel to the downtown areas.  Right now, everything is just thrown together so it's all very piecemeal and disjointed.  The business area along Davis (especially west of the Metra tracks) is not attractive.

  6. I am sickened by the amount

    I am sickened by the amount of money that waffles place is getting. Is that the new Evanston charity? Why don't we get to vote on it? They already received a subsidized loan. *We* are subsidizing them and now they want a grant?

    At a minimum, I would like to see a web page in the city with the standing of each of the subsidized loans they grant.

  7. Grant money

    Is this money from the City of Evanston or is it grant money offered by the State? I know that other cities and towns have grant money available through various programs that are created to enhance the appearance of the downtowns.

    As for the animal hospital facade, it sounds absurd to make comments to the effect that the animals don't know the difference. Old, outdated looking facades give the entire city a stale look so I'm all for using grant money to update Evanston. It's about improving the appearance of our community!

    1. City money

      This is taken from the city property taxes.

      WHich do you think is more important- Making good on the pension promises we made to our police and firefighters, or giving $$ so businesses can look pretty?

      I'm not sure if you are aware, but currenctly our police and fire pension funds are only  50% funded, perhaps lower if the city doesn't actually attain the 7% return in the market with the funds.  

      What does this mean?  At some point, our city is likely to run out of money

      Currently, there is $70,000 of debt PER RESIDENT, man woman and child, in this city- again, perhaps higher if the city can't get returns on their invested pension portfolio.

      KEeping this in mind, do you still think it's a wise choice to spend money on business facades?  In my mind, it's akin to a person underwater in their mortgage going out and buying all new furniture on their credit card.


  8. You have got to be kidding!

    You have got to be kidding! More money thrown at a business that is attatched to an eyesore storefront house of worship? The folks who are opening this waffle and chicken restaurant should have had to pass the fashion police of Evanston facades AND explain why their high fat food offering will enhance the lives of residents  of the west side. This is getting ridiculous. The Evanston city government cannot figure out how to help a group open a facility that will give teens and young adults recreational options at the former recycling facitlity but can subsidize a restaurant's signage ? Are we really that desperate for waffles and chicken in Evanston with all the heart issues and obesity in our community? I say NOT!

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