A new Goodwill Store and Donation Center is set to move into the Evanston Plaza shopping center. City Council introduced the matter on the consent agenda on June 27. Some residents protested the decision, saying the store furthers the shopping center’s reputation as a “discount” center that will attract lower-end tenants as a result.
Alderman Peter Braithwaite, 2nd Ward, told the Planning and Development Committee that the new Goodwill store will “fit into the retail mix currently at the plaza” while bringing “40 to 50 jobs to Evanston” as well as “projected tax revenue” from both property taxes and sales taxes.
Paula Mitchell, Goodwill’s real estate consultant, said Goodwill was “founded on the premise of a hand up, not a hand out.” The Evanston Plaza store would be part of the largest Goodwill region in the country, the Chicago-Milwaukee region, which has 63 outlets and will add a new outlet soon on Touhy Avenue near I-94. Goodwill plans to pour “over $1 million into the store” in buildout, she said.
Goodwill brings shoppers and donors into the Center, she said. The donation entrance, which will be at side of the building, will be separate from the main store entrance and will open an hour earlier than the store itself.
“This is my big concern – the [donation] drop off,” said Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward. “I maintain it’s going to be a problem; I think this is just a mess waiting to happen, and you’re going to have to reconfigure everything. … I’m just going to ask that you keep a close eye on this. … “I’m at Valli [Produce] three or four times a week. Congestion will be a problem.”
The donation entrance would be through the arch at the corner of the center, where the south and west buildings meet. The drop-off would also be reachable from Greenleaf Street at the rear of the center, said Frank Schwaub, the center’s property manager.
Local resident Brad Taylor said his “overarching concern, given the mix of stores going into the space,” was the “perception” of the Center as a low-end, shopping center, attracting “retail very much on the lower end of the spectrum.”
Lisa Dziekan, the lone member of the Zoning Board of Appeals to vote against the project, agreed. Goodwill could be a good fit in Evanston, she said, “but I don’t think it’s a good fit in that center,” where it would join a tenant mix that includes a Dollar Tree, DaVita dialysis center and a veterans’ health-care clinic. “We need a range of shopping, not another discount center,” she said.
Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, said the City and residents do not get to pick the tenants they would like to see. “If it were me, [the center would include] a guitar store, a bicycle shop, a bakery …” The City’s economic development team and the shopping center owner have “worked very, very diligently,” he said. The former tenant in the proposed Goodwill spot, AJ Wright, did not work. Goodwill “might not be what we would all pick, but they’ll pay the rent,” he said.
The Center has improved markedly since Valli, which owns the center, took over. “It is night and day compared to five years ago,” said Ald. Wilson.
“Alderman Wilson, you pretty much gave my speech” said Ald. Rainey. She recalled Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl at the lectern when AJ Wright closed, appealing to T.J. Maxx to put a HomeGoods store into the plaza. It did not work. “I’m not crazy about the Goodwill thing,” she said, but the City does not get to pick.
The measure passed out of Planning and Development Committee by a 5-0 vote, then was introduced at Council on the consent agenda, to return for final vote on July 11.