The future of the City’s former recycling center at 2222 Oakton St. may be settled for the next two decades, as City Council approved a lease with Smylie Brothers for a brew pub there. The 10-year lease with two five-year options, provides for rent an initial annual rent of $163,750, with an annual adjustment equal to the consumer price index beginning in the third year of the lease.

Smylie Bros. will have four months to complete its due diligence and, during that period, has the option to “exit the deal if it was determined the project was no longer feasible,” according to a memo to the Council from City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz, Assistant City Manager/CFO

Martin Lyons, and Johanna Leonard, Economic Development Division Manager.

Smylie Bros. will also be responsible for the build-out costs and will have the option to purchase the property. The City will not offset from the sale price any rent paid or any investment costs before Smylie offers to purchase the property.

The City will build a parking lot there for use by Smylie Bros. patrons and by those visiting James Park, the animal shelter, or the community gardens. Since visitors to the animal shelter would use the new parking lot, the City is contemplating converting the animal shelter parking lot into a play area for the animals.

The cost of the new parking lot is estimated at $850,000; the animal play yard would add another $40,000 to the City’s cost in the recycling center area. Revenue from the new parking lot is projected at $67,000 per year. Street parking, said Eighth Ward Alderman Ann Rainey, would remain unmetered.

Some residents expressed concern at having a brew pub so near the large, family-oriented park, even bringing Frances Willard into the debate. George Feeney said, “I have seen the park develop over the years to the fine place it is now. Frances Willard [a member of the WCTU and a suffragist] would be very happy with James Park. I’m sure she would be quite upset with Council – and there are many women on the Council – that they would agree to renting part of City property to people who want to construct a restaurant and beer garden at James Park. This is a very bad idea for James Park and for Evanston.”

Rob Bady, a candidate for Eighth Ward Alderman, said is “not in support of Smylie’s #2. I don’t want them to expand this way. One reason is process. I don’t know how these decisions are made. … I’m not against economic development. I think it’s great – but not to the detriment of the residents.”

Matt Rodgers, former chair of the City’s zoning board of appeals said he supported the brew pub because it takes a non-functioning property and restores it to a good use. He also said the land for the brew pub is not park land but is zoned for industrial use.

Fourth Ward Alderman Don Wilson said the recycling center was closed in 2010, and since then the City has been looking for other uses. “In 2011, I very strongly advocated for a sports use, but in 2012 that fell apart. So, it’s not without trying that we’ve come up with something. Six years is a long time. Smylie will be a nice place to go to get something to eat with the family. We have something that’s more than ‘something.’ We got a very profitable, very family-friendly, very productive business. The parking lot will pay for itself in five or six years. This is going to be the jewel in the crown of West Evanston.”

Ninth Ward Alderman Brian Miller reiterated his call for park programming there. He said he felt the Council was prioritizing the site over James Park.

His was the sole “no” vote; the measure passed 8-1.

Mary Gavin is the founder of the Evanston RoundTable. After 23 years as its publisher and manager, she helped transition the RoundTable to nonprofit status in 2021. She continues to write, edit, mentor...