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At its June 26 meeting, the City’s Economic Development Committee (EDC) recommended that the Howard Street Merchants Association and the Dempster/Chicago Merchants Association each receive a $9,000 Great Merchants Grant. City Council subsequently approved the grants. The money will fund things like advertising in the areas, plantings and tree lighting during the holidays, and more.

Paul Zalmezak, City economic development planner/coordinator, said the grant is “a way of supporting local and small businesses in our unique train station business districts.” The Purple Line “El” train has eight stops in Evanston, many of which are surrounded by a cluster of businesses ranging from restaurants to yoga studios.

The Great Merchants Grant helps the business associations made up of many of those business clusters in part with beautification efforts. “If you look at the types of things they fund, they’re generally aesthetic improvements of the districts,” said Mr. Zalmezak. “[The grant is] a way to enhance our unique business districts.”

Other business associations in Evanston that have received money from the Great Merchants Grant are the Central St. Business Association, the Dr. Hill Business Association, the Main Street Merchants Association and the Evanston West End Business Association.

Even though funding from the grant aids these associations in these beautification efforts, the associations also contribute their own funding and resources. This goes beyond the $9,000 that they have received from City grants. Mr. Zalmezak explained that the grant is “a way to encourage emerging groups to get organized.”

Dr. Barbara Carlson, one of the owners of the Howard Street Animal Hospital, represented the Howard Street Business Association at the EDC meeting. She said, “Having that extra push of helping [business owners] with the flowers has helped people say, ‘OK I’ll go ahead and do it this year’ and then as a group, try to get together to do that.”

The Dempster/Chicago Merchants Association and the Howard Street Business Association also use the Great Merchants Grant to help support advertising in print publications, social media and any other way that the association can reach consumers. “A lot of people don’t know Howard Street exists.” said Dr. Carlson. “As a group we are hoping to do some …advertising to let people know what kind of businesses are on Howard Street.”

The City of Evanston invests in these business associations by both helping them enhance the appearance of the areas and also by extending their awareness efforts, said Mr. Zalmezak. This way, Evanston can enjoy the success of these businesses and Evanstonians will be able to take advantage of all the City has to offer.