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Members of the Evanston Land Use Commission voted 8-1 on March 9 to recommend a proposal for a Salvation Army Family Store and Donation Center at 2424 Oakton St.
The matter next heads to the City Council’s planning and development committee. If ultimately approved, the store would replace Gordon Food Service, which is currently at that location.
Attorney Mitchell Melamed, who is representing the Salvation Army, said the new store would be a natural fit for the location and would require minimal interior and exterior alterations for the building.
The Salvation Army has another location further to the west on Oakton Avenue in Skokie that it wishes to close once its lease is up this fall. The Skokie location currently generates about $90,000 in sales per month, Melamed said.
“This would generate a significant amount of sales tax per month for the city of Evanston,” Melamed said.
But some at the meeting, among them Chair Matt Rodgers and Commissioner Max Pachtel, were concerned about whether traffic could be disrupted by cars dropping off donations. William Kindra, a co-owner of Quad Indoor Sports, 2454 Oakton St., shared those concerns.
“Any Saturday or Sunday between Dec. 1 and March 31, the traffic is a complete and utter challenge,” said Kindra. “We have a lot of families in there during the winter months.”
Melamed said the Salvation Army store will be closed Sundays, but said his clients did not yet have an idea what the average number of customers per day would be.
Commissioner Myrna Arevalo said that when she previously had dropped off items at the Skokie location, there were rarely more than 10 cars in the parking lot.
“I don’t think this is a reason for concern for an [uptick] in cars in that [Oakton Avenue] location,” she said.
The commission forwarded a number of previous suggestions from the city staff and the design and project review committee, most of which were intended to ensure that donation drop-offs did not result in messy conditions outside the building.
The commission added two conditions of its own, though. The first instructed Salvation Army officials to work with city staff to make sure that drop-off traffic did not result in additional street congestion. A second condition stipulated that the Salvation Army sets a goal of hiring at least 50% of their staff from Evanston, a suggestion from Commissioner Kristine Westerberg, who noted that the since the Salvation Army is a 501(c)3, the property would be going off the city’s tax rolls.
Rodgers shared Westerberg’s concern and noted that, though Gordon Food Service did not do robust business at the location, they still paid about $130,000 in property taxes annually.
Though he was supportive of the project overall throughout the discussion, Rodgers’ vote was the only one against the proposal.
“This will generate sales taxes, but I have concerns about taking any building off the tax rolls,” Rodgers said.