The City hopes to acquire tax-delinquent properties near the Mayfair spur, then aggregate them for development into affordable housing and green space. Only the railroad berm remains, running diagonally from Lake/Dodge to Simpson/Green Bay. RoundTable photo

Getting your Evanston news from Facebook? Try the Evanston RoundTable’s free daily and weekend email newsletters – sign up now!

Under a Cook County program that allows municipalities to obtain tax-delinquent properties without an immediate outlay of funds, the City hopes to acquire 11 tax-delinquent properties and restore them to productive use. Sarah Flax, the City’s Housing Grants Administrator, said the City would like to acquire the properties, which lie loosely in two clusters on the City’s west side, under Cook County’s No Cash Bid Program.

“All the properties are in the area of the West Evanston Development Plan or in in greenways,” Ms. Flax said at the Dec. 12 City Council meeting.

A memo from Community Development Director Mark Muenzer, Deputy City Attorney Michele Masoncup, and Ms. Flax said the Cook County Board created the No Cash Bid Program in 1991 to be an “economic development tool that assists municipalities with the acquisition of tax delinquent property in order to transform parcels either into private developments with tax reactivated status and/or tax-exempt community projects. To qualify, property index numbers (PINs) must have at least two years of delinquent taxes.”

A municipality that wishes to participate must  receive  approval for purchase from the Cook County Finance Tax Delinquency Subcommittee and the Board of Commissioners. Once approval has been received, the County is authorized to purchase a tax lien at a scavenger sale – or in some cases, as an over-the-counter transaction – in the amount of the unpaid taxes, according to the memo. The total amount of delinquent taxes for the 11 properties the City is eyeing is $350,000.

At this point, the owner may still redeem the property for the amount of back taxes owed. If that does not happen, the County hands over the Certificates of Purchase to the municipality so it can petition for a tax deed, which clears all back taxes, penalties, and fees. Other steps are necessary, including the development of a plan for each parcel that furthers the goals of the municipality, the memo said.

The plan appears to be already in the making, as staff have sorted the delinquent properties into West Evanston Development Packages 1, 2, and 3.

Development Package 1 is composed of eight property identification numbers (PINs) within the West Evanston Master Plan. If the City is successful in acquiring them, they would be developed as housing or greenspace, based on the plan.

The properties are in the 2000 block of Jackson and Wesley avenues and in the 1800 and 1700 blocks of Grove Street.

Five of these are vacant land that was part of or near the former Mayfair railroad right of way, which is mostly unused property on the old railroad berm between Foster and Simpson streets and Ashland Avenue and Green Bay Road. These would be developed as housing and green space.

The other three PINs, parts of the former railroad right-of-way near Davis and Grove streets, would be redeveloped as green space with east-west pedestrian/bike connections where Davis and Grove streets dead-end near Evanston Township High School.

Development Package 2, which has a single PIN, is also a part of the railroad right-of-way and would be aggregated with other parcels for redevelopment.

Development Package 3 includes two PINs that would be developed as housing or as mixed-use buildings. The City-owned parcels adjacent to these would be aggregated for development.

The plan is for staff to develop these three No Cash Bid request packages and submit them to the Cook County Planning & Development Department by the end of the current year. 

It is not guaranteed that the City would be able to obtain these properties, Ms. Flax told the Council members, but she said acquiring and developing them would further the City’s livability goals. “If we start aggregating these properties, we can do some affordable housing and create some green space,” she said. Aldermen unanimously approved the City’s participating in the No Cash Bid program for those 11 properties.