Aldermen recommend tax incentives for Howard Street property


Evan Robinson-Johnson

Ald. Ann Rainey (8th) at a City Council meeting. Rainey said there needs to be more development in Evanston.

Cassidy Wang, Assistant City Editor

Aldermen voted 7-2 to send an application to the Cook County Assessor endorsing a Howard Street property for special assessment at a Monday meeting.

The applicant, 619 H, LLC, is requesting the vacant property at 611-24 Howard St. to be considered for a commercial tax break status designation, which “intends to encourage commercial projects in areas determined to be in need of commercial development,” according to the Cook County Assessor’s website.

Such projects have total development costs — excluding land — under $2 million and would not be economically feasible at this site without the incentive.

If the application is approved, the occupant would be exempt from over $600,000 worth of property taxes after development, according to city documents. Dr. Mohamed Eldibany, the founder of 619 H, LLC, plans to invest $1 million to renovate the property and then lease the space for events.

“It has truly been a blight in our neighborhood for twenty years,” said Jeannie Sanke, an 8th Ward resident. “It is crumbling before our eyes, quite literally. I put in calls every couple of months to 311 because there are trees growing in the gutters.”

While “everything else on Howard Street has been redeveloped,” Ald. Ann Rainey (8th) said the building has sat empty for 19 years, with crumbling plaster on the floors and ceilings.

Evanston resident Virginia Mann said when she moved to the city 23 years ago, Howard Street was a “blighted nightmare.” Since then, Mann has seen a “tremendous transformation” in the area, which she said has cultivated a viable community and has increased the city’s tax base.

“The transformation has been great, except that there’s one property there still in the area that for nineteen years has been vacant that continues to deteriorate on a daily basis,” Mann said.

The building would need extensive redevelopment for occupance, from electricity and roof replacements to the installation of plumbing, Rainey said.

While this project would be expensive, Rainey said the development of the property could bring the city additional revenue.

“I did not vote for the additional sales tax, because I know these kinds of things, development in this town, is the way to go,” Rainey said. “That is the way to take care of everybody. Let’s do more development. Every single penny that we’re getting off Howard Street is helping everybody in this town.”

Sanke said “the dollars do follow” from development projects. The renovation project is expected to generate a home rule liquor/sales tax totaling $55,000 and the property would contribute to “ongoing revitalization of Howard Street,” according to city documents.

Evanston resident Mike Vasilko said he is concerned the applicant is looking for a large property tax break “in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

“Sooner or later, all these tax giveaways come back to bite us in the ass and the people that end up paying for it are the people that live in Evanston,” Vasilko said. “This is a commercial, for-profit company that deserves to pay their property taxes.”

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @cassidyw_