Six months into the pandemic, downtown Evanston has seen quite a few business closings and is likely to see more moving forward, said the head of the group responsible for promoting the district.
Annie Coakley, Executive Director of Downtown Evanston, the non-profit group which provides marketing and management services for the downtown area, detailed some of the changes in a report at the First Ward community meeting Sept. 1.
“I’m sure we don’t have to explain to you that we’ve had quite a few closings,” said Ms. Coakley, opening up her report at the meeting, held online because of social distancing constraints, “and that we are going to unfortunately see some more.”
Some of the closings, such as Andy’s Custard, 719 Church St.; Asha SalonSpa, 1604 Sherman Ave.; The Gap, 1706 Sherman and CouCou & Olive clothing stores at 1706 and 1716 Sherman Ave.; and The Spice & Tea Exchange of Evanston, at 1615 Sherman Ave., were pre-pandemic, she said.
Those closed due to the pandemic and not expected to reopen, according to Ms. Coakley’s list, include Einstein Bros. Bagels, 1745 Sherman Ave.; Gather, a children’s amusement center at 602 Davis St.; GNC, a vitamins and supplements store at 812 Davis St.; and Panera Bread, 1700 Sherman Ave.
Assembly Creators, a clothing boutique at 1642 Orrington Ave., has moved the store to online only, Ms. Coakley said.
Others on the closing list include That Little Mexican Cafe and The Stained Glass restaurants, at 1010 Church St. and 1735 Benson Ave., respectively.
Ms. Coakley said someone has expressed interest in the Stained Glass space, raising the possibility of another restaurant going in there the beginning of next year, she said.
In response to a question, she said a build-out “is going strong” at the former Barnes & Noble store at 1630 Sherman Ave., another pandemic casualty.
Northwestern Medicine, which provides healthcare services, is expected to move into that space early next year.
Ms. Coakley said one of the main issues right now to retaining and attracting businesses is rent.
The Evanston RoundTable reported in July that property owners in the Main-Dempster area had raised concerns about the steep property tax hikes they received in the second installment property tax installment bills that went out that month.
Ms. Oakley said the tax increases are also affecting landlords downtown who have to pass them on in the form of higher rents, more in line with “Bucktown prices or downtown Chicago prices.”
“I mean it’s pretty astronomical some of the dollar amounts that are being asked,” she said
She said another “one of our major, hopefully temporary struggles right now, is our daytime population is almost non- existent,” comparing it to “the 11,000 people, on average, coming to work in downtown Evanston every day.”
“Most of those offices have not reopened; most people are still working from home remotely,” she said. “We hope to see an increase, and maybe more coming around the end of this year, next year.”
She said the students’ not coming back has been a major hurdle as well.
On the positive side, outdoor dining has been great, she said, and the City is working on a plan to extend dining into the fall and winter months.
And, the beaches’ being opened “was a great thing for downtown Evanston,” she said, “and we promoted that heavily with radio ads and email paid ads and a billboard on the Edens: “Come to Evanston for the beaches – stay for the shopping and the dining, or a Weekend Getaway,” she said.