The City of Evanston’s annual economic development report says sales and other business tax revenue increased 8 percent last year while retail and office vacancies declined to their lowest levels in a decade.

The vacancy figures from CoStar Realty Information show retail vacancies down from 8 percent a decade ago to 4 percent and office vacancies below 5 percent, down from over 7 percent a decade ago.

Rents for Evanston retail space now average $22.55 per square foot while office rental rates average $28 per square foot, according to CoStar.

The demand for office space for startups and one-person businesses has led to addition of more coworking spaces. Industrious at 909 Davis has expanded to a total of 114 offices. CoLab, long-established at 900 Chicago Ave., has added a second space at 1880 Oak Ave. and startup 818 Coworking has opened at 818 Lake St.

The city’s total collections from sales, hotel, liquor and amusement taxes rose from $21.3 million in 2017 to $23 million in 2018.

Sales tax, up nearly $900,000, was the biggest contributor to the increase, followed by the hotel tax, up over $400,000 and the liquor tax, up over $300,000.

Community Development Director Johanna Leonard, in the report says one area that still has significant retail vacancies — along Church Street near Maple Avenue — presents “a short-term challenge resulting from shifts in the retail market and ownership expectations of rents.”

The city’s jobless rate averaged 3.3 percent during 2018 — lower that the national, state and Chicago regional rates through the year.

Three tower cranes at construction sites downtown — at 811 Emerson St., 1500 Sherman Ave. and 1727 Oak Ave. — signal the impending arrival of over 650 new housing units that are expected to bring about 1,000 new residents to downtown.

The full report is available online.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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