Over and over Evanstonians have argued against whatever was proposed for a particular site, saying “we could do better” than that.

Sometimes the argument carries the day and the project is rejected — as with last week’s decision by the mayor to reject the Tilted Kilt.

Sometimes it fails and the project is approved.

What’s your favorite local example of where the wait has — or has not — paid off with something better down the road?

You can make a suggestion in the comments below, or send it as a news tip. Examples from the past 10 years or so preferred.

We’ll try to put together a reasonably representative list and see if it leads to any useful conclusions.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. “Stop the Malling of Evanston”

    I can't think of a project that turned out better because it was put on hold.  I can think of a lot of projects that were put on hold and the storefronts remain empty and undeveloped.  My best example is a project that had a lot of opposition but has ended up being good for the city.

    Remember the "Stop the Malling of Evanston" battle cry from a few years back?  As I recall, this anti-development campaign centered on the movie theater complex and the Chili's restaurant (and the tower development may also have been part of it).  Although I never joined this group in a formal way, I was opposed to the Chili's for some of the same reasons people were opposed to the Tilted Kilt – tacky, we can do better, we're not just some suburb with bland chain restaurants/bars, etc.  Well, what a difference a few years makes.  I supported the Tilted Kilt, and am extremely disappointed in the Mayor's decision.  She has lost my vote.  I still hate Chili's, and have never set foot in it (just as I would never expect to go to TK).  However, I know many NU students and employees, as well as Evanston families, who enjoy Chili's.  And as a homeowner with children in Evanston's public schools, I appreciate the tax revenue generated by the movie theater complex (including Chili's). 

    And please don't give me the prudish argument about those TK servers and their skimpy outfits – as the mother of a daughter, I don't need Mayor Tisdahl to determine what is and isn't appropriate for my daughter.  I am perfectly capable of explaining to her why we would never go there, in the same way that we walk by Chili's and I say we aren't going there – let's go to Olive Mountain, or Merle's, or That Little Mexican Cafe, or Mount Everest, or any other of our terrific home-grown restaurants.

    I've discovered that we have to make tradeoffs in terms of business development in our fair city,especially in our current economic climate.  I hope the TK opponents will make the same discovery before the next legitimate business tries to open shop here.  Otherwise I think there's a play waiting to be written about Evanston – it's called "Waiting for Trader Joe's." 

  2. Denied condo proposal at Davis and Chicago

    I recall about 5 or so years ago there was a proposed condo building at the SE corner of Davis Street and Chicago Avenue.  As I remember it, it was a very pleasing and elegant building.   The building was sensitive and very well designed to the site – nothing like that behemoth Sherman Plaza, which unfortunately got the city seal of approval!  (The people of Evanston will be living with that design mistake for 100 years.)  The city council would not even let this developer present the design that he had obviously spent an enormous amount of time and money on.  It was an embarrassment that he wasn't even allowed to speak – the council just voted it down.  It was clearly political. 

    We would have had a beautiful building and more residents adding to the tax base and the vibrancy of downtown.  Instead, what remains there is basically nothing.  That was a real shame for the downtown businesses and for all of the taxpayers.


    1. Sherman Plaza wind tunnel

      Did any of the brilliant zoning or council members think about the wind tunnel that the plaza would create ?

      The Chase bank building is probably 40 years old and was known for the wind tunnel it created—they should have learned.  Then they built the [current name] Rotary center which did not help.  The high rise at Church and Chicago Ave. starting at Whole Foods has also created a strong enough wind tunnel that sometimes you have to walk a bike since the wind prevents any movement on a bike.

      How could they then miss the wind tunnel that the plaza would create ?

      I'm not against high rises but certainly the effects should have been part of the planning. 

  3. Need a Pharmacy

    Off topic, but downtown could use a second pharmacy.  CVS has been very disappointing.  If we can support so many ice cream shops and chain restraunts, surely there is demand for another pharmacy.  Would it even need city approval to be put in a retail space?

    1. We use to have multiple

      I think at one time we must have had five drug stores at the same time—some small..

      When Sherman Plaza was going to be built Osco reserved a small store space just north of Church until they could rebuild in the Plaza.  However, as I recall, just before construction started, they were told they would not be let back into the Plaza.  Big mistake.

      If CVS would have known about the above, maybe they would have been able to build a larger store.

      The old or new Borders could be a place for Walgreens to move back into—they were originally in the old Borders store.  Or CVS could move and expand.  I'm not aware of other large chains.

      Maybe they could add a liquor store—such as Osco had so there is some competition downtown.


      What about putting McDonalds back to where they were before the hotel forced them out.  Surely the hotel has learned by this time that some income [and city taxes] rather than have restaurants that go out of business.

      1. Osco and McDonalds

        "What about putting McDonalds back to where they were before the hotel forced them out.  Surely the hotel has learned by this time that some income [and city taxes] rather than have restaurants that go out of business."

        Free-standing Osco pharmacies were closed everywhere.  Why would you expect Sherman Plaza to have one?

        McDonald's can return to downtown if they want…but why are they needed?  We have a Five Guys and a Burger King.   I think that an IHOP would do well underneath the Orrington Hilton.

        Also, this discussion would not be complete without a pro forma mention of the need for more parking and a Trader Joe's.

        1. no Trader Joe’s…

          but we still get some unintentional humor from the IHOP people (person).  That's what we need, a low-grade chain pancake house?  Personally, I think IHOP isn't any better of an option than the Tilted Kilt. 

        2. Osco and McDonalds

          As I recall Osco did not stop having free standing stores until after the Plaza or city or whoever said they would not let them back in.  They kept their small temporary store reserved until being told they could not come back.

          McDonalds was hit on by the city from the day they opened.  They could not afford to operate under the taxes and rules from the city.

          I would love to have IHOP in downtown !


  4. Not how it works

    Some of the comments on this board befuddle me.  Do people really think that the City or its residents can put together a wishlist of the types of businesses they would like in town and then somehow it will magically happen? 

    This is not the way the world works.  Business owners choose us, we don't choose them.  We can reject them (as we did for Tilted Kilt) but we cannot force a Walgreens or a Trader Joe's or a McDonald's to open up a location in our town if they are not interested in doing so.  If any of those places were interested in being in downtown Evanston, they probably would be already.

    I suppose that we could entice a specific business to open up shop here through tax incentives, but then you are giving preferential treatment to one business over another.  The government is picking winners and losers at the taxpayers' expense.

    I think the responsible thing to do is make our town as uniformly business-friendly as possible and let the markets decide which businesses will thrive or fail in our community.

    1. About time somebody pointed this out

      This "if only X would come to Evanston'" mentality is ridiculous.  Clearly the numerous vacant storefronts throughout our city indicate that Evanston has not been great for the businesses that formerly occupied them.  And, given this, it shouldn't be surprising that new businesses aren't exactly knocking down the door trying to open up shop here.  I realize that we have been experiencing some difficult economic times in the past several years, but I am hard-pressed to think of any substantial businesses that have opened in the general downtown are during that time.  Unfortunately I can think of several that have left.  So, instead of pining for stores that have no interest in Evanston, let's instead focus on making the environment encouraging for those few (GFS, Tilted Kilt) that actually want to bring jobs and tax revenues to our city.

  5. Evanston the Old Maid

    Evanston is like the proverbial finicky Old Maid, still waiting around for Mr. Perfect and rejecting all other increasingly-diminishing suitors.  But Mr. Perfect has no interest in Old Maid Evanston as her beauty faded away long ago and because of her high-maintenance attitude and increasingly bizarre idiosyncrasies. 

    Soon all the suitors will disappear, and Old Maid Evanston will be left with only her bitterness, her completely unfounded sense of superiority, and her dozens of cats.

    1. To Add to That…

      I just cannot help it, but to add to your analogy, Old Maid Evanston, by profession…. is a librarian! 

      The token stereotypical single for life librarian!

       A librarian who works at one of the branch libraries (the Twig thingy…, etc.), hiding behind her big glasses and covering every inch of her fair pale skin yet fiercely zealous to keep branches open and tax the residents of Evanston for their pet project.

      Just joking…;)

  6. Brew Pub


    Here is my contribution… it would be wonderful to see a micro brewery / pub in Evanston, most preferably with live music and definitely with food.

    I really think Evanston would be a great market for this since the resident base tends to be somewhat eclectic. 

    I cite the success of Union and Space and the business they generate and the continued success of the business.

    I also cite the burgeoning NU students who may very well patron a place like this.

    Really, there is nothing even close to this in Evanston.  It would be a nice addition.


Leave a comment
The goal of our comment policy is to make the comments section a vibrant yet civil space. Treat each other with respect — even the people you disagree with. Whenever possible, provide links to credible documentary evidence to back up your factual claims.

Your email address will not be published.