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(This is an April Fool story)
The City of Evanston has added square footage for the first time in nearly 100 years. Under an agreement with the City of Chicago to be signed Monday, April 1, Chicago will sell the south side of Howard Street between Chicago/Clark and Ridge to the City of Evanston, bringing both sides of the street into the Evanston fold.
The agreement makes sense, according to Evanston’s Director of Corporate Largesse, Grafton Grant, because the two sides of the street form a cohesive whole. Plans are already in the works for a new TIF district that will incorporate the newly acquired stretch, said Mr. Grant.
“This will link in with the existing TIF, but being several years behind it [the Howard Street TIF] we can keep the dollars flowing into this region just that much longer,” he said.
The overriding sentiment behind the deal seemed evident at Council as everyone’s questions seemed to come to a similar conclusion: “We can do better than them.”
The success of Evanston’s City-owned wine and cheese bar may well have sparked the deal, as several aldermen suggested a possible pedestrian bridge that would link both sides of Howard and allow swift transit between the existing bar and a host of proposed new entertainment options on the (formerly) Chicago side.
Terms of the deal were not readily available as the deal was reached in executive session.
“This deal involved real estate,” said Mr. Grant. “We can keep it quiet.”
Speculation was rampant as to the cost and the consideration behind the deal.
Evanston will not technically “own” any of the property added, but instead will become the beneficiary of property taxes collected from property-owners of, for example, the Popeye’s Chicken lot.
Once the TIF passes – and a proposed TIF has never failed in the history of TIFs in Evanston – any increase over current tax collections must remain on Howard Street for infrastructure or other specifically allowed purposes.
The deal is extremely rare in the annals of Illinois municipal law, if not North American law.
One aspect of the deal was made public: The parking meters on the south side of Howard will remain the property of Morgan Stanley Infrastructure, who infamously purchased all Chicago meters about five years ago.
One possible source of whatever funds Evanston agreed to pay: The City is currently in talks to sell the north side of Isabella to Wilmette.
“We just don’t want any more of these split streets,” said Mr. Grant.