The City of Evanston is poised to add to its growing Howard Street real estate holdings with the purchase of the propety at 717 Howard St. Without debate or discussion, City Council authorized the purchase at its July 28 meeting. Only Alderman Ann Rainey, whose Eighth Ward includes all of the Evanston side of Howard Street, spoke to the matter.
Closing is scheduled for Aug. 15 at a cost of $97,500, with funding to come from the Howard Street TIF. The City already owns the property at 727-29 Howard St. and has been trying to convert it into a live theater space. The City also owns 623-27 Howard St., leased to the Peckish Pig, and 629-31 Howard St., leased to Ward 8 and residential tenants. Both restaurants have been, by all accounts, extremely successful to date.
Early in 2014, the City purchased 721 Howard St., adjacent to 717. According to the staff memo, 721 “could be paired with 717 Howard Street for a larger redevelopment project site.”
Ald. Rainey said that “over the years this building  has been a very difficult property to have in your ward – my ward.” The owner of the property, she said, stored inoperative large vehicles behind the building in what “became a junkyard.” The City “went to court countless times,” she said, but “we were never successful in getting fines, and if we did, I don’t think the fines were ever paid.”
The property eventually lapsed into foreclosure and became bank-owned. As a result, this property on the market for $149,000 in late 2012 now became available for just under $100,000, according to the staff memo. “I am really grateful” for Council and staff support, said Ald. Rainey.
Residents can look for continued revitalization of Howard Street in the near future.