Developer’s Chicago Avenue facelift in search of city support

Dalia Naamani-Goldman

A block of Chicago Avenue will receive a facelift beginning this summer, thanks in part to some money from Evanston and a contribution from a local developer.

“We share a common goal: the betterment of the Chicago Avenue streetscape,” said Stuart Kantoff, general manager for Dubin Residential. “It’s good for the city and (our) residents.”

But the entire Chicago Avenue Streetscape Project comes with a steep price: an estimated $7 million to $8 million.

“I’m certainly not agreeing to fund (the project) with (additional) city funds,” said Ald. Stephen Engelman (7th), noting that City Manager Roger Crum’s proposed 2003-04 budget anticipates a $3.5 million deficit. “The only reason I agreed to it is we had previously allocated funds.”

The project, which stretches from Lake Street to South Boulevard, is one of many proposed plans to renovate the street and bring more business to Evanston.

“It’s a way to put public investment in an area of growth for the city,” said Susan Guderley, a neighborhood planner with the city’s community development department. “Since we can’t expand and grow (out of Evanston), we can only redevelop or build new (properties).”

But Sat Nagar, a senior engineer with the city, could not predict when the project would be completed because it is too early to know its ultimate cost. Funds will come from a variety of sources, he said, including the city, the developers and the state.

“It’s going to mean a lot more effort on the part of the city and developers and businesses,” he said.

The streetscape project will focus first on the block that stretches from Keeney Street to South Boulevard, where Dubin’s townhouse complex is going up. That stretch will serve as a model for the rest of the project.

So far, the city has approved $280,000 of previously allocated funds toward the project, enough to pay for half of the final engineering plans, Guderley said. Dubin Residential contributed an additional $125,000 to fund the area along its property.

“At this point, the most immediate cost is to move from the concept plans to construction plans,” she said.

The city agreed to put $80,000 to $100,000 of the approved money toward lighting and underground electrical wiring along Dubin’s portion of Chicago Avenue, she said.

However, the city first must negotiate contracts for the project. Nagar said the Evanston City Council will vote on the issue at either the Jan. 27 or the Feb. 10 meeting.

Construction will begin in June or July, Guderley said, beginning with preliminary plans like new sidewalks, concrete, brick work and tree grates.

Dubin paid the city to landscape and develop the street in front of its property, rather than hire its own contractors, because the city is planning the rest of the street already, Kantoff said.

“We’re not exactly sure what (the city’s) exact plan is,” he said.

Dick Peach, president-elect of the Chamber of Commerce, said he thinks the project is excellent.

“It makes (the street) look attractive, and it allows for good traffic flow and pedestrian flow,” he said. “It’s long overdue.”