Chicago Ave. renovation, zoning top City Council’s agenda

Dalia Naamani-Goldman

Evanston City Council will tackle tonight an engineering contract to design the Chicago Avenue Streetscape Project and will also consider a new zoning ordinance that would affect convenience stores.

The streetscape project — along Chicago Avenue between Lake Street and South Boulevard — would widen sidewalks, narrow the street and add more trees, new curbs and lighting. The estimated cost is between $7 million and $8 million.

Work on the project will begin this summer. Dubin Residential, a developer building townhouses between Keeney Street and South Boulevard, agreed to contribute $125,000 to landscape its block following the streetscape plan. The city also will contribute some of the money for that block.

The city already has approved $280,000 toward the project, which is enough to cover half of the final engineering plans. If the contract is approved, the Smith Group JJR would receive $97,015 to create the first stage of the engineering and construction plans.

“It’s kind of strange,” Ald. Edmund Moran (6th) said of the project. “I don’t know how they’re planning to pay for” the rest of the project, he said.

Moran said he hasn’t decided how he will vote tonight, though he voted against the initial proposal in December.

The council also will vote on a zoning ordinance concerning convenience stores and store lots — such as Christmas tree lots — in an attempt to regulate trash and loitering.

“The motivation behind it is a concern regarding little convenience stores that are nothing more than cigarette and candy (shops),” said Ald. Stephen Engelman (7th).

Engelman said he was the only alderman to oppose the ordinance change when the Planning and Development committee considered it.

“The definition is too broad,” he said. “It takes in every grocery store.”

Ald. Steven Bernstein (4th) said the new ordinance was very specific and had to be sent back to staff three times to reword it.

The old ordinance simply defined convenience stores as food establishments open at least 15 hours. The measure would change the definition to include more stores by eliminating the hours requirement, Engelman said.

Problems have occurred only in certain areas of the city, Bernstein said. He said the Howard Street area, which is in Ald. Ann Rainey’s Eighth Ward, has had many of the problems.

“Stores are open all night and sell God knows what to whoever,” Bernstein said. “It’s a nuisance.”