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Controversial at the time, the decisions by Evanston City Council to subsidize the development of Ward 8 and Peckish Pig restaurants on Howard Street were hailed as successes based on a report received by City Council on Oct. 16. The report showed a positive net return on investment on both projects.

Howard Street redevelopment has been championed by Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, who asked for the report. She spearheaded efforts by the City to acquire the buildings that now house the two businesses, then negotiate “lease to purchase” deals for both. The City paid initial acquisition costs and the cost to rehab the buildings, then leased the buildings to the businesses with an expectation that the business owners would ultimately buy the buildings from the City.

Ward 8’s owners purchased their building – at 629 Howard St. – in October 2016. Peckish Pig’s owners expect to complete their purchase of 623 Howard St. by December.

According to an updated memo provided by City Chief Financial Officer Marty Lyons at the Oct. 16 meeting, the Peckish Pig deal has netted the City nearly $400,000 in direct benefit, coming from rent paid, the sale price of the property, liquor taxes paid, sales taxes, and property taxes received. The building’s assessed value has increased such that property taxes received nearly doubled, from about $24,000 in 2012 to more than $44,000 in 2016.

The analysis pointed out, but did not take into account, the 38 jobs created.

The story for Ward 8 is similar, though the scale is different because of the size of the building. The net benefit to the City, according to Mr. Lyons’ memo, is almost $177,000. Four jobs were created.

“The Howard Street redevelopment has been really something,” said City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz. He called it a “textbook example” of economic development. “The work we have done there has been a catalyst” drawing other businesses, and residents, to the corridor. “The dollars and cents of it really don’t capture the transformative nature” of the projects. “We’ve turned a corner,” he concluded.

“These are just the numbers,” added Mr. Lyons, saying the two restaurants have “a lot of ancillary benefits.”

Addressing frequent City critic Junad Rizki, who often decries the use of City staff to build a patio for Peckish Pig, Mr. Lyons pointed out that the loan for the expense of the patio had been repaid in full. The City owned the property at the time the patio was added, he said, and installed the patio as a landlord would for a tenant.

“When these came up, I voted against [them],” said Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward. “At the time I said, ‘I hope I am wrong.’ I’m thrilled to say – I was wrong about it. … I see absolutely nothing to complain about.”