Aldermen hold discussions on Oakton St. property in committee


Daily file photo by Katie Pach

Ald. Ann Rainey (8th) speaks at a City Council meeting. Rainey suggested the city only accept lease proposals for the 2222 Oakton St. property after the anticipated termination of the Smylie Brothers lease.

Elizabeth Byrne, Summer Editor

Aldermen decided to hold off on further discussion about the former recycling center while city staff continue to speak with Smylie Brothers Brewing Co. about ending a previous lease.

The city approved a lease with Smylie Brothers in January 2017 at the 2222 Oakton St. property, formerly a city recycling center. In April 2018, company owner, Michael Smylie, wrote to the city requesting the termination of the 10-year lease. Aldermen discussed other options regarding the property but delayed the discussion in committee at a May 29 meeting.

In the Administration and Public Works committee meeting before City Council on Monday, Ald. Ann Rainey (8th) voiced her concerns about selling the property to a new buyer after the previous lease is resolved, which could occur if the city introduced a request for proposals for the space.

“We should leave this open if we’re going to go with an RFP,” Rainey said. “One of the problems with putting this up for sale right off the bat is the fact we lose control right off the bat.”

Rainey added that the property is located adjacent to Evanston’s “biggest park in the city,” and it could be sold quickly to a company that the city would have no control over. Ald. Robin Rue Simmons (5th) agreed with Rainey and said the property should not be sold based on its proximity to parks and the schools in the area.

According to city documents, the city drafted a request for proposals to open to the public regarding 2222 Oakton St. in preparation for the early end of the Smylie Brothers lease.

Ald. Cicely Fleming (9th) was not present at the Administration and Public Works committee or City Council meeting, but she advocated for selling the city property instead of undergoing another round of proposals in a written statement read during the committee meeting.

“I do not support the city going into another lease agreement given the ineffective execution of the current lease and the previous lease with the art center,” Fleming said in the statement. “I regret not being present to voice my strong support for the sale of this building.”

However, the property is not up for sale or lease until the city comes to an agreement with Smylie Brothers that “can help everyone move on,” Community Development Director Johanna Leonard said. City staff are talking with Smylie Brothers and the law department will come to the July 9 City Council meeting with an update on the discussion, she added.

According to city documents, the city is looking for a “taxable user” for the space, even though the space is still labeled as city property in Cook County and therefore non-taxable.

Ald. Tom Suffredin (6th) said the city should look at all proposals for the property that come in, including both options to sell and to lease, and discuss as a council from those options.

Rainey suggested the city provide specific qualifications to individuals and organizations before proposals are submitted for the property. According to city documents, the review of qualified proposals was planned to happen after all proposals were submitted. Rainey added that the proposals should be for organizations or businesses that are “non-property tax exempt.”

Combining the two processes would reduce the process by 60 to 90 days, Leonard said. However, the city will not review any new proposals until the negotiation over the lease with Smylie Brothers is resolved, which Leonard said is anticipated to be at the July 9 City Council meeting.

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