Updated: Evanston aldermen back second Pritzker bed-and-breakfast


Edward Cox/The Daily Northwestern

Andrew Scott, the attorney for Evanston billionaire James N. Pritzker, said his client is trying to establish his legacy by investing in historical homes. Pritzker has proposed a second bed-and-breakfast in Evanston.

Edward Cox, Assistant City Editor

City Council on Monday voted to begin debate on a special use permit for a second bed-and-breakfast owned by Evanston billionaire James N. Pritzker.

Aldermen voted 7-2 to formally introduce the ordinance. The vote reversed an earlier decision from the city’s zoning board of appeals that narrowly rejected Pritzer’s bid to turn the lakefront property at 1622 Forest Place into a B&B.

Aldermen will vote on final approval later this month. The council is expected to approve the permit.

The location neighbors a Pritzker-owned B&B currently under construction at 300 Church St. The council approved that B&B in 2011, overturning a rejection from the zoning board.

Alds. Judy Fiske (1st) and Melisa Wynne (3rd) dissented Monday and said granting the permit would disrupt life in a residential neighborhood.

Evanston’s B&B ordinance has not been amended since 1993 despite efforts by residents to regulate how close establishments can be to one another. Evanston resident Christopher Ernst, who lives near the proposed B&Bs, described Pritzker’s acquisitions as “commercial ventures,” differing from the makeup of traditional B&Bs as “Ma and Pa” establishments.

“I think it takes away the opportunity to have what most (families) by the house hope for, which is having another family living next door,” said Wynne, whose ward includes both the proposed B&B and the one on Church Street.

Andrew Scott, Pritzker’s attorney, said the new B&B would not damage the integrity of the neighborhood. After he addressed the council, a procession of architects, real estate agents and residents argued the B&Bs would benefit the area.

“These homes, as they age over 100 years old, are extremely difficult to maintain, and this is substantial … to preserve and restore it to its original nature,” Scott said.

Ald. Donald Wilson (4th) questioned how the B&B would become profitable if Pritzker charged only $150 to $300 per night after investing about $5.5 million in the property. Scott said the local billionaire was more focused on restoring the beauty of the building rather than turning a profit.

Ald. Ann Rainey (8th) said she supports approving a special use permit for the B&B and suggested the zoning board decision would have been different had proponents of the development showed up at the meeting.