Evanston aldermen offered ideas about what they think draws people to Evanston as part of a visioning exercise at a special council meeting Tuesday night.

Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, said, “Many people come because it’s a progressive — I don’t want to say liberal — community. It’s not just local politics, but an overall attitude of progressiveness and tolerance.”

Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, said that, in conversations with his oldest son, who’s thinking of where he wants to go to college, “it struck me that in some ways Evanston is like a big college — it has lots of different aspects and opportunities to it.”

“There’s a diversity of opportunities in the arts, sports, education — anything you want to try,” Wilson said. “Other places might have the same socioeconomic or racial breakdown, but they don’t have the same diversity of opportunities.”

It’s not unique, Wilson conceded, noting that he’d found a lot of similarities to Evanston in Lawrence, Kan., when he attended law school there at the University of Kansas.

Alderman Peter Braithwaite, 2nd Ward, said he meets a lot of young families in his ward who moved to Evanston from Chicago because of the school system.

“In Evanston,” Braithwaite said, “there really isn’t a bad school — the resources, the quality of teachers, the diversity of arts and sports and after school programs” are one of the special qualities of the town.

Alderman Jane Grover, 7th Ward, said that with two kids who’ve now gone through high school and lived here since they were born, “I think they’ll be back, because of the progressive sensibility here.”

“There’s a midwestern pragmatism here,” she said, “and people who’ve grown up here will be able to talk to almost anybody in the world because they’ve been grounded in their experiences here.”

Alderman Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, said Evanston “is small enough to have a homey feel, but still close enough to Chicago to have an urban sensibility. It’s difficult to replicate that anywhere.”

Alderman Mark Tendam, 6th Ward, said people in Evanston “want to be out and about, not secluded in their homes. They want to take walks in the parks, attend cultural events. There are all kinds of ways for people to get together and know each other.”

What do you think draws people to Evanston? Your comments are welcome.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Chicago and the lake

    My father got a job transfer to the Chicago area in 1975. My parents were modern thinking people to begin with, and their reasoning for choosing Evanston for our family was that it was ridiculous to move to Chicago but not live near the lake and have easy proximity to city. Although it cost them dearly to make the move–they even for a time considered Arlington Heights as a less expensive alternative–their decision paid off in spades for the people we've met and quality of life we've enjoyed. Although my parents have passed, today five of my siblings and our families continue to call Evanston "home."

  2. Why Evanston?

    1. Northwestern Univ.

    2. Lake effect means better weather than western suburbs.

    3. Transportation to Chicago.

    That is pretty much it.  These barely cover the disadvantages—most of which are due to city government decisions, crime, and taxes.  Once shopping [Wiebolts, Lytons, Fields, numerous book stores, clothing/shoe stores] was a big draw but little is left. With the choice to make again, Wilmette would win out despite somewhat higher housing costs [but not necessarity if you shop wisely].

    1. Ridiculous. People come from

      Ridiculous. People come from all over the North Shore and Chicago to Evanston for restaurants and shopping.

      Crime is historically low, and the violence is confined to a very small subset of the community. You are not at risk, and thinking you are is irrational.

      Taxes are high and city government can make some head-scratching decisions, but when did those decisions impose an onerous burden on your life. Never, I bet.


  3. What draws people to Evanston

    It is a city that tries!  I do not agree with many of the decisions which our city government makes, but I do believe that the great majority of Evanstonians, both inside and outside government, do care about others and want to do the best for our community as a whole.  Because it is so diverse and offers so many opportunities, any decision has trade-offs. 

    The physical beauty of the lakefront, opportunities for cultural enrichment at Northwestern, Music Institute, Evanston Art Center and the many theaters, restaurants, interesting shops, a great variety of people and cultures and good neighbors are all a big plus for us.  We have raised our children here.  One returned to raise her family and the other speaks of Evanston as a very special place to grow and grow up.

  4. Why we moved to Evanston 20+ years ago
    Our family moved to Evanston because :

    1. Perceived quality of schools – we have 4 kids
    2. Close proximity to Chicago – my wife and I both work in Chicago
    3. Nice home at “reasonable” price – Chicagoland is a high cost place to live

    Those are the 3 most important reasons.

    The additional aspects that add to the attractiveness of Evanston include:

    -Lake is a bonus since it adds to environment compared with cities we’ve lived in like Indianapolis.
    -Northwestern is a bonus because it adds to the cultural atmosphere.
    -Diversity is a bonus since we want our family to experience different religions, socioeconomics, cultures,perspectives, in addition to race.
    -Art, theater, and music scene is robust for a smaller community
    -Shopping, including restaurants, is a bonus – unique mom & pop shops and different foods – not limited to chain based strip malls

    The issues that detract from Evanston are:

    -deteriorating quality of schools, driven by both State of Illinois, and politically motivated school board members and administrators
    -high & higher taxes – taxes and fees keep going higher, but our family and other middle income families are not experiencing increased incomes, so we are getting squeezed
    -boneheaded decisions by City Council – the non stop spending approach and their view that they can solve all of our citizens’ problems for us – (please focus on the important issues)
    -deteriorating infrastructure – especially water mains and sewers – not the sexy stuff but, City Government needs to focus on this
    -negative attitude towards NU – i didn’t go to college at NU, but i recognize the value they bring to Evanston – yes, they can be better partners, but so can the City of Evanston – NU gives way more to Evanston than they get in return – it can and should be a mutually beneficial partnership

  5. So conservatives don’t move to Evanston?

    I am friends with a married couple with two preschoolers. They are both liberal or progressive. They considered moving to Evanston but after diligent research concluded the Evanston public school system is inferior. So they bought a house in the northwest suburbs.

    Our aldermen are clueless, naive or arrogant to suggest the main reason people move to Evanston is because the city or they are progressives. If you want diversity move to Skokie or Glenview. Those suburban school systems have kids from around the world in which school administrators must adopt to at least 30 different languages

    People move to Evanston because it's a  suburb with a city feel, is on Lake Michigan, has beautiful vintage homes and is  a college town. None of these reasons were mentioned by our aldermen. Evanston is not diverse. Show me a conservative aldermen.

  6. The bigest draw is

    The bigest draw is Northwestern, followed by Lake Michigan. I would say that Northwestern is about 65 % of the draw with another 15 % attributed to our lake front. As to the remaining 20 %, I don't believe that any single item could account for more than 4 %.

    You are asking the wrong question. You should be asking why people and businesses avoid coming to Evanston. You'll get a lot more answers but you may not like what you hear.

    1. Why technology won’t pick/stay in Evanston

      With NU [esp. Engineering school] and a substantial number of highly educated STEM population, the question is why we don't have a 'tech' center. We have the empty office space available for multiple groups/companies to produce a 'hub' [a big benefit to collaboration] but start-ups find the taxes and rents and I suspect regulations mean that once they get on their feet and lose any 'incubator' benefits, they move elsewhere.  Again I point out that a Google founder had worked here.  But there have been so many companies that started here and moved.

      I suppose the Council will say we had a Research Park and did not last.  Recall how the city fought it tooth and nail and no matter what NU and bright people said, all the Council wanted to talk about was a 'nuclear free zone' and animal rights.  Well I guess we know why established companies or those wanting more than an 'incubator' term [and even that does not seem to work well], don't pick Evanston—of course they also see how the city fights NU and ignores using them and see what they would be up against.

      1. Lack of Office Space

        >> We have the empty office space available for multiple groups/companies to produce a 'hub' [a big benefit to collaboration] 

        Nonsense. Office space is in short supply and costs much more than the Loop. The lease for my startup employer is up and the decision to move is entirely is entirely due to lack of space. Politics, taxes, regulations, "fighting NU" or whatever play no role in the decision. If the decision to move is made, it would be with a heavy heart since so many in the office love the Evanston environment. Companies are clearly lining up to take advantage of Evanston location and employee base. 

  7. there is a type of serenity and like, thoughtful diversity that

    exists in evanston.

    along with the lake effect/affect it's pretty cool.

    and not just that,

    you've got some decent eateries and if you ever wanted to go down town,

    5 stops away on the metra in only 25 minutes.

    there is NO other transportation system in the country that is that good.

    don't know about property, i don't own in evanston, but if i did, it would be eastward. 🙂


    thomas 🙂

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