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Failing to live up to its potential, Evanston Plaza, the under-tenanted shopping plaza at Dempster Street and Dodge Avenue, is now in receivership. The plaza, owned by Joseph Freed & Co., joins its pricier Freed colleague, Chicago’s Block 37, in receivership.
Alderman Lionel Jean-Baptiste, in whose Second Ward the shopping center lies, said City officials plan to meet with the tenants of the plaza to see what, if anything, can be done.
In opening the plaza, Freed negotiated a sales-tax-sharing agreement with the City, under which the City would remit to the developer its portion of the sales tax up to a certain amount. A few years ago, Freed asked to renegotiate that agreement, with the promise of bringing in Steve and Barry’s as an anchor tenant, but that company declared bankruptcy before even opening its store in Evanston.
According to some media reports, Phoenix Bond & Fidelity has acquired a tax lien on the property and paid about $2 million of Freed’s delinquent property taxes.
Jayne Thompson of Jayne Thompson and Associates – to whom Freed previously referred the RoundTable for comment on Evanston Plaza – told the RoundTable on May 5, “Freed remains committed to the project and is doing its best to work around these issues.”
Although a good portion of its storefronts are empty, the plaza still has a few anchor tenants: A.J. Wright, Panino’s, Dominick’s, Kingston Grill, Subway, Metro Kleeners, Subway, Dunkin’ Donuts and Dance Center Evanston.
A second agreement in connection with the plaza was a promise by Freed to contribute up to $20,000 per year – after sales tax remittances to Freed and the City had been accounted for – to create a Neighborhood Improvement Fund, which groups in the area of the plaza could use to help mitigate the effects of the commercial development. The most recent project was the neighborhood plantings on several corners in the Dempster/Dodge area. Residents also planned to use NIF funds to help jumpstart the Grandmother’s Park initiative, which would turn a vacant lot on Dewey Avenue into a tot lot. (See story on page 4.)