• The Lorraine H. Morton Civic Center, the house of City government, preliminary redevelopment value of $14.3 million;
  • Police/Fire Headquarters at 909 Lake Street, $3.5 million;
  • Gibbs-Morrison Cultural Center at 1823 Church St., $445,000;
  • The 1800 Maple Garage, $13.5 million;  
  • The Church Street Garage, $5.3 million;
  • The 1703 Orrington Library parking lot, $4 million;
  • Storefronts at 633 and 729 Howard St.; the James Park sledding hill (Mt. Trashmore)

To a greater or less degree, those were some of the properties a consultant studied, in an early valuation of the City assets.

If some of those were in play before the pandemic, they are expected to receive even greater focus now, with City officials looking at a budget shortfall projected between $10.6 and $20 million because of the toll the virus has had on revenue.

Aldermen approved at their April 27 meeting a City-owned Real Assets Report from Consultant Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL) and directed the consultants to proceed on the second phase of the study.

In the second phase, JLL associates are expected to further refine the value of the properties, as well as develop strategies for their disposition or renovation.

The first site the consulting team is recommending for further study is the Civic Center, 2100 Ridge Ave, which houses most city departments and is the site for City Council and other meetings.

 Officials have long eyed the building as a candidate for redevelopment. In an advisory referendum in 2007, residents voted 80% in favor of the building at 2100 Ridge Ave. remaining as the City’s seat of government. Although the roof on the building is relatively new – less than 10 years old – officials say the building is in need of major repairs to the Civic Center’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system.

In JLL’s analysis, “the team identified a significant capital investment that will be needed to be made in the Civic Center building during the next few years,” said  Michael Hoffstrom, senior analyst at the firm, in his report to the Council.

“And we also observed during the site underutilized space within the building, in part due to its original intent as a school building (Marywood Academy, built in 1927), not as an office building. Rather than making those capital investments in the existing facility, this may be an opportunity for the City to consider either acquire or develop a replacement facility for the Civic Center and, as part of that, potentially consolidating administrative functions, including the police and fire headquarters with that Civic Center facility.”

Some other comments included in the JLL study:

Gibbs-Morrison, 1813 Church St., which the City acquired in 2015, “seemed underutilized. At the time of our tour, there were a handful (five or less) customers frequenting the Litehouse Whole Food Grill; otherwise the center was empty. A buyer may be interested operating the existing building for retail use or demolishing the existing building and developing a new project in its place.”

The Animal Shelter and Adoption Center, at 2310 Oakton St. “Overall the Animal Shelter and Adoption Center seemed tight in space. The space seems constrained but appears to have potential for expansion with undeveloped land behind the building.” The report noted that the City has applied for a grant that would allow them to construct a new facility.

In that case, the existing site – “proximate to several standalone retail businesses — may be particularly attractive to a retail developer,” the report surmised.

1800 Maple Avenue Parking Garage. “The 1800 Maple Avenue site may have greater value if it can be paired with the Farmers Market lot, as a developer would have the option to develop Farmers Market lot while using the 1800 Maple Avenue site for parking for the new for the new development. The City could discuss the possibility with Northwestern to see if the University would consider disposing of their property.”

The 65-foot James Park Sled Hill was one of the sites that did not make the final list. JLL consultants noted the sled hill’s steep slope, which could make design and construction on the site more difficult; as well as the remediation that might be necessary because of the sled hill’s previous existence as a landfill.

Introducing the consultants at the April 27 meeting, Paul Zalmezak, the City’s Economic Development Manager, stressed that the findings “were meant to be a starting point.

“I would also suggest that the timing of the report couldn’t be better,” he told Council members, “considering Covid-19’s potential impact on how we do business.

Property decisions take time,” he pointed out. “We can’t afford to sit back and wait until Covid-19 is resolved,” he said.

Bob Seidenberg is an award-winning reporter covering issues in Evanston for more than 30 years. He is a graduate of the Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism.