Revitalization is under way in Evanston’s southern business district.

The City Council voted Monday, Jan. 9, to purchase the Clothes Pin Laundromat, located at 729-739 Howard St., for $950,000 on Monday night.

The city plans to combine the 9,000-square-foot property with the nearby 5,000-square-foot, city-owned property at 727 Howard St. The combined 14,000-square-foot site will be a mixed-use affordable housing development.

The Howard Ridge TIF funds, with a remaining balance of $1,584,867, will be used to purchase the laundromat.

The city purchased Clothes Pin Laundromat on Howard Street for for $950,000. Credit: City of Evanston

Originally, the Eighth Ward wasn’t able to convert the city-owned parcel at 727 Howard St. into affordable housing because developers said it was too small, Eighth Ward City Council Member Devon Reid explained to the council.

But when the Clothes Pin Laundromat owners Soon Rhim and Jung Ho Yun sold their property to the city, there was enough space to develop affordable housing, Reid said.

“They sold it to us understanding that they had the opportunity to sell the business for a lot more than what we bought it for, so I want to commend the Yun family for giving up a couple $100,000 they could have made from selling the business to sell it to us at this reduced price,” Reid said.

“Because they understood the vision. They understood that Howard Street needs development and they wanted to be a part of that.”

First Ward City Council Member Clare Kelly and Sixth Ward Council Member Thomas M. Suffredin were the only members to vote against purchasing the property. Suffredin took issue with the cost of the property and the fact that the city will have to sell the laundry equipment inside the property.

Eighth Ward City Council Member Devon Reid Credit: Gina Castro

“We’re in the laundromat equipment disposal business and as previous experience has shown maybe that’s not always the best way to go,” Suffredin said.

The laundromat was appraised at $750,000, which excludes the business improvements and the value of laundromat equipment. The city will sell the equipment for revenue, but Economic Development Manager Paul Zalmezak doesn’t have high hopes for the equipment sales.

“You don’t make a lot of money on the equipment,” Zalmezak said.

The city does have experience selling equipment from purchased properties, Zalmezak said. The city was successful in selling the equipment from the French Cafe on Howard Street, he said.

In addition to purchasing property on Howard, the city made progress toward developing a Special Service Area (SSA) on the street as well.

The City Council approved Teska Associates, Inc. to begin the SSA designation process. SSA provides a specific district marketing and beautification support and is funded through an annual tax on the district’s commercial property owners.

Over the next three to four months, Teska Associates, Inc will determine if businesses on Howard are willing to participate in SSA fees. Next, the City Council will vote on whether to implement the SSA or not.

The city is paying Teska Associates, Inc. $37,120 from the Howard Ridge TIF funds for its services.

Clothes Pin Laundromat owner Jung Ho Yun, left, said the sale of his business was set in motion in October. Credit: Bob Seidenberg

Ho Yun, originally from Korea, said he and his wife bought the business for $600,000 in 2005, after previously working on the Chicago side of Howard Street.

Now at age 77, he said when officials visited him in October and asked, “Do you want to sell?” he replied, “OK,” setting the deal in motion.

“I’m too tired,” he explained.

Nadine Forrester, who works in the food services department at nearby Saint Francis Hospital, was among the customers doing laundry.

“How often you use the laundromat?’ she was asked.

“A lot – me and my mom, kids, my brother,” she said, naming other customers.

She said she has facilities where she lives: “But it’s easier to come to a laundromat, so you don’t have to go up and down.”

She used to use another nearby laundromat but switched to the Clothes Pin, she said, which she uses all the time. She chit-chats frequently with Ho Yun’s wife, Rhim Yun, she said.

A clean, friendly, well-maintained laundromat versus affordable housing?

“Affordable housing, how affordable is it?” she asked.

Gina Castro

Gina Castro is a Racial Justice fellow for the Evanston RoundTable. She recently earned a master’s degree from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism where she studied investigative...

Bob Seidenberg

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.

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