Aldermen vote to introduce ordinance to sell Oakton Street property


Daily file photo by Evan Robinson-Johnson

Ald. Ann Rainey (8th).

Cassidy Wang, Reporter

Aldermen on Monday voted to introduce an ordinance authorizing the entrance of a real estate contract that would sell the city-owned property at 2222 Oakton St. to Clark Street Real Estate.

According to city documents, the developer, Clark Street Real Estate, is proposing to purchase the building and adjacent land currently serving as parking to secure a long-term lease with First Ascent, a rock-climbing gym.

The proposal specifies the development of 20,000 square feet for climbing, while also providing space for a fitness area, weekly yoga and fitness classes and at least one community event each week. First Ascent also proposed to provide other various youth and community outreach programs, including after-school youth programs focusing on fitness, agility and social interaction, summer camps and youth birthday parties.

Although the proposal emphasizes goals of community development, Ald. Ann Rainey (8th) said real estate tax revenue contributions would be the only benefit the city would get from the development.

“The user of this property should generate more than just real estate taxes,” Rainey said. “However, it generates really nothing else other than real estate taxes.”

Rainey does not support the immediate sale of the property. She said she is also skeptical of the development’s promises of being a “really inclusive operation.”

“I see that a birthday party for children is going to be $30 a kid,” Rainey said. “That includes nothing but rock-climbing. I guess that’s what middle-class kids are paying for birthday parties this year, but that doesn’t seem very inclusive.”

Rainey said she also does not support the development because the activity spurred by the facility is contained within the building. She described the proposal as “not so exciting, not so out there, not alive.”

According to city documents, First Ascent estimates 2,000 members and several hundred visitors each day if they open in January 2021. Nearly half of these daily visitors would be non-member day users from the Evanston and adjacent North Shore communities, using the facility for birthday parties, special events or team building. First Ascent has also suggested Evanston residents “demand” climbing and fitness programs after identifying 2,100 unique visits from city residents at their existing locations.

Evanston resident Doreen Price said notice about the sale and development of 2222 Oakton St. was published in the Chicago Tribune’s Evanston Review, an outlet she does not subscribe to, and one that excludes the input of lower-income residents through employment of an online paywall. She added that First Ascent did not provide any evaluation about the diversity of people they expected to use their facility.

“Give us a profile of your rock climbers and if it doesn’t match Evanston, then maybe it’s not likely to succeed here,” Price said.

The motion passed 7-2. Both Rainey and Ald. Judy Fiske (1st) voted not to introduce the ordinance.

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Twitter: @cassidyw_

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