Evanston business districts await beautification grant decision

Ben Schaefer, Assistant City Editor

Evanston City Council is slated to hear a proposal from six neighborhood business groups requesting $54,000 in funding for beautification and various other projects at their next meeting.

The proposal was submitted as part of the Neighborhood Business District Improvement Program, according to a city document. The program was created by the city’s economic development team in 2010. The program allows for established districts to apply for up to $9,000 in grants to put toward marketing and beautification.

“We have seen the money put toward putting planters out on sidewalks and creating banners for events,” economic development coordinator Meagan Jones said. “It really does help districts who are trying to increase foot traffic in their district and bring in more clients to a retail space.”

The funding comes from the economic development fund. Districts can apply more than once and many groups applying now have applied in the past, Jones said.

“Many of these groups have been around for a long time and understand their needs,” she said. “They know what to ask for and how the process works, but more importantly they know how to put it to use and reap the benefits from the program.”

Each group involved is scheduled to receive the full $9,000 from the program should it pass. The money will be put toward planters, streetscape furniture and advertising.

The businesses petitioning for the aid include the Central Street Business Association, the Chicago-Dempster Merchants Association, the Hill Arts Business District, the Howard Street Business Association, the West End Business Association and the West Village Business Association.

“The bottom line is, we want to do something that will help bring customers to our businesses,” said Steve Farmer, co-owner of the Happy Husky Bakery. “We want to make Central Street a nice, fun place for Evanstonians and people beyond to come and shop.”

The city offers the opportunity annually to receive the Great Merchant Grant to seven or eight business districts.

“The grant money is a big incentive,” Farmer said. “We have dues that we collect to be a member of our business district, but they’re not sufficient for large capital projects.”

The Central Street Business Association submitted plans to install large planters on the street, maintain existing planters and install benches in their proposal, according to Farmer.

Proposals were submitted in January. Deliberation on the proposals will take place on Monday, Feb. 23 at Evanston’s Civic Center.

Four more groups are scheduled to request funding later this month.

“I believe Evanston is a unique business environment,” Farmer said. “We’re close to Northwestern, we have great restaurants and places like Central Street are quaint neighborhoods. We’re one of a kind and making our business districts more attractive places only adds to what we offer.”

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