Committee recommends hiring firm to study reviving business districts


Evanston officials are recommending a Philadelphia urban design firm for a comprehensive study of the city’s business districts, suggesting ways the city can realign itself in the aftermath of COVID-19.

Members of the city’s Economic Development Committee recommended April 27 that the city enter into a $245,000 contract with Interface Studio to provide the study, which would incorporate extensive community participation.

The study would include downtown as well as the city’s other business districts.

Officials have recommended that half of the project be paid for out of federal American Recovery Plan Act funds and the other half from revenues generated by five city tax increment finance districts.

The proposal will next go to the City Council for consideration.

Closing sign at the downtown LA Fitness storefront. Credit: Bob Seidenberg

Evanston business districts face unusual pressures, said Paul Zalmezak, the city’s Economic Development Manager, in a memo and presentation supporting the study.

“Being located less than three miles from Old Orchard, one of the country’s premier regional shopping centers, and thirty minutes north of Chicago’s world renowned shopping and entertainment puts Evanston at a competitive disadvantage,” wrote Zalmezak.

“Online shopping, parking challenges (real and perceived), expensive rents, property taxes and the uncertainty of the pandemic have created confusion amongst retailers, small businesses and business district service providers perhaps never experienced in Evanston despite its many economic evolutions.”


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