While the city has seen four longstanding businesses close recently, new places are still coming or are on the horizon: LeTour, Amy Morton’s newly opened French-Moroccan restaurant is one and another is Michael Lachowicz’s Fonda, a Mexican restaurant, hoping to open soon at 1735 Benson Ave., the former site of The Stained Glass.
“We’re still having new businesses arrive as others unfortunately close,” said Council Member Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward.
At the same time, two iconic businesses on the Main-Dempster Mile are set to get a makeover and both are drawing up expansion plans.
While residents are generally supportive of the developments, a small group of community members expressed concerns at a neighborhood meeting Saturday, Jan. 7, about the remodeling of Union Pizzeria and Evanston SPACE at 1245 Chicago Ave.
“This is a regional draw. It’s an economic engine, not just for this area, but for all of Evanston,” Wynne said. The new design, she added, will improve the experience for show-goers at the venue.
The project is set to take over a site next door at 1243 Chicago Ave., an antiques store that was razed last summer. The proposed redevelopment will see the restaurant get an upgraded kitchen and new patio, while the music venue will be able to have an independent entrance, more amenities, and an overflow area.
“What we’re proposing is really a support structure that would improve the amenities and infrastructure of our current operations. Not so looking at expanding the business so much as improving it,” said Jake Samuels, executive director of Evanston SPACE.
Currently, he said, the venue shares an entryway with the pizza store, with remodeling set to take that burden off the restaurant. Samuels said the plan will also enable the venue to have a box office, a coat check and independent bathrooms.
However, a few of the 12 residents attending expressed concerns about parking and whether the venue or the restaurant would be increasing capacity. Samuels acknowledged parking can be an issue on Dempster Street, but said he is not looking to increase capacity at SPACE.
Samuels said he expects the project to wrap up sometime this spring. Before this can happen, Evanston SPACE will have to apply for a special use permit as well as an amendment to the city’s zoning ordinance, said Elizabeth Williams, the city’s planning manager.
This will follow a review by the Land Use Commission, but the final decision will be voted on by the city council, Williams said.