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Fourth Ward and Eighth Ward residents have begun to choose their next aldermen. The Feb. 23 primary election is necessary because more than four residents are running for aldermen in those wards. The names of the top-two vote-getters will appear on the April 6 general election ballot.

The RoundTable invited Eighth Ward aldermanic candidates Ann Rainey (incumbent), Shelley Carrillo, Matthew Mitchell, and Devon Reid to provide answers to four questions. One of these was to provide a tour of the Eighth Ward, highlighting its top three assets and top three challenges. The RoundTable was not able to contact Mr. Hall. Only Ald. Rainey has responded.

Ann Rainey’s Eighth Ward Tour

Ann Rainey

The greatest asset of the Eighth Ward is our diversity, we are diverse in every way – racial diversity, ethnicity, income, housing stock, age, gender-orientation and all the various neighborhoods reflect that diversity. Another asset is the presence of public and not for profits. Oakton Elementary school is a landmark that is within the Oakton historic district. The school is adorned with WPA murals that are magnificent as are the teachers and students that learn there.A true asset in the Eighth Ward is Levy Senior Center on Dodge Avenue,  named after philanthropist Joe Levy Jr. whose Levy Foundation subsidizes programing and facilities. Just to the northwest of the Center is the Evanston Animal Shelter.

Saint Francis Hospital is one of Evanston’s seven major employers, and its presence in our ward is significant along with its medical office building. The institution contributes to the well-being of our community in many ways.   Also, we are fortunate to have Access Health in the 1800 block of Howard Street. This is a Federal Health Clinic. There are several small but active churches and two synagogues including the notable JRC on Dodge Avenue.

A third and very important asset is commerce. The Eighth Ward contributes mightily to the tax base. Let me share with you some of the interesting commercial support provided in the Eighth Ward. We are proud of the Jewel, Target and Best Buy shopping center at the far west end of Howard Street. For many years it was the major sales tax generator in Evanston It is said that Jewel offers the largest Kosher food selection of any grocer between here and NYC. Gordon Foods is on Oakton, Sweet Temptations Bakery, El Pueblito Mexican food and Good to Go Jamaican and Bill’s, IHOP, Harold’s Chicken – all offering great food on Howard Street.

Firsts

We have several first and/or only in the Eighth Ward:

  • Jewel is the first liquor license ever on Howard Street in Evanston.
  • Ward 8 is the first liquor license ever issued for drinks by the glass on Howard Street.
  • Peckish Pig is the first ever to receive a brew pub license in Evanston.
  • The first and only cidery in Evanston is North Shore Cidery at 707 Howard St.
  • The Howard Street Theatre (Theo Ubique) is the only storefront performing arts theater in the city of Evanston.
  • And Quad Sports – the only sports dome as far as the eye can see.
  • You cannot forget the beautiful James Park – the City’s largest park
  • I must mention that The Auto Supply business at Custer and Howard has operated uninterrupted for over 40 years.
  • The Howard Street Animal Hospital has been in business for over 30 years.
  • We think we’re the only ward in the United States that has four buildings designed by Carol Ross Barney FAIA S architect (she designed Chicago’s Riverwalk).

Challenges

The number-one challenge is the recovery of business and people from the COVID-19 lockdown. I am not sure how that is going to work, but I am certain that my constituents know and the small businesses know I will do everything possible to assist them.

Concerns include evictions, need for housing rehab assistance, food etc. Small business, restaurants, etc. need help getting customers back in the door. Reactivating Howard Street Business Association is also on my list.

The reputational issue is always a challenge. But it has become much less of a challenge in the last 10 years. But myths continue in some circles regarding Howard Street. I have always believed that the success of Howard St. is the solution. It is looking better than ever – businesses are performing under great adversity.

Challenges don’t always fit in neat 1, 2, 3 order. I am concerned about the expansion of Evanston’s tax base and am working hard to push for the completion of the Howard Chicago Gateway Project. Having this coincide with the Chicago Avenue plans is exciting. 415 Howard is looking tired; heading west residents have expressed sprucing up the commercial west of Ridge Avenue, and I agree.