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The new use of the City’s recycling center could have people climbing the walls. On Dec. 10, aldermen voted to introduce for discussion an ordinance  that would authorize the City Manager to negotiate the sale of the former recycling center, 2222 Oakton St., to Clark Street Real Estate LLC. Clark Real Estate has proposed a selling price of $1 million.

City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz had requested City Council suspend the rules and approve the ordinance that evening, but aldermen voted only to introduce the matter. Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, said she had scheduled a ward meeting for Jan. 9 to present the proposal and asked her colleagues to defer the vote until after that meeting. The proposed sale is likely to appear on the Jan. 14 City Council agenda. 

The company plans to secure a long-term lease with First Ascent, a company that operates four indoor rock-climbing and fitness centers in Chicago. The First Ascent team proposes 20,000 square feet of climbing with 250 routes to climb; a fitness area with cardio equipment and functional strength equipment; up to 60 yoga/fitness classes weekly; after school youth programs focusing on fitness, agility, and social interaction; 45 parking spaces and at least one community event every week. The company also plans to allocate space for local restaurants and retailers.

Clark Street Real Estate estimates the total cost of the project to be $3.25-$3.75 million, which would include costs for infrastructure, renovation, fixtures and equipment and “soft” costs.

A memo to the City Council from City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz, Community Development Manager Johanna Leonard and Economic Development Division Manager Paul Zalmezak said, “The owners of First Ascent estimate 1,500 members per facility, and 600 users per month for events and one-time uses. First Ascent has identified 2,100 visits from Evanston zip codes at their existing locations suggesting demand for their program. The team believes this site clearly offers unique and compelling synergies that are hard to replicate in other locations specifically, the amenities offered at James Park, Quad Indoor Sports and Dawes Elementary School.”

This sale may somewhat mitigate the loss of the Smylie Brothers proposal for a brew pub there. In December of 2016, Smylie and the City entered into a 10-year lease with two five-year options so Smylie could convert the place into a brew pub. The lease provided that Smylie would pay no rent for 18 months, while the company and the City completed the build-out. Beginning in the third year of the lease, Smylie would pay an annual rent of $163,750 with an annual adjustment equal to the consumer price index. Construction should have begun after the “inspection period” set forth in the lease, which, it seems, expired in May or June of 2017.

The City-Smylie Brothers lease also required the City to split the parcel and place the building on the tax rolls, but the City did not do that, leaving the parking lot City-owned and thus tax-exempt. According to County records, the parcel was split as required by the lease. Because the City did not put the property on the tax rolls, Smylie did not pay any leasehold property taxes. Apparently, the property is now or shortly will be on the tax rolls, as the memo states the new proposal, when completed, will generate about $104,000 annually in property taxes. The City’s portion of that would be about $17,000.

Smylie opened its brew-pub elsewhere and the City recouped some of its losses. In July of this year, the City issued requests for qualifications and proposals to renovate the site. Clark Street Real Estate and Palmhouse Productions (the Peckish Pig) responded, and the City accepted Clark Street’s proposal.

Mary Gavin

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...