Council members, city officials, and local business owners are collaborating on a program to ensure that Evanston’s long-standing businesses and nonprofits can remain a community asset well into the future.
Still in early development, the new Legacy Business Program will provide direct assistance to Evanston-based businesses and non-profit organizations that have been in operation for at least 20 years.
The program was led by Council member Claire Kelly (1st Ward), with Council member Melissa Wynn (3rd Ward), Preservation Commissioners Karl Klein and Susie Reinhold, and Economic Development Manager Paul Zalmazek is being developed by a working group that includes urban planner Cade Stirling. .
Its purpose statement explains that legacy businesses define the character of Evanston and its surrounding areas, and that losing them would be detrimental to both the city’s heritage and its economic vitality. it reads:
“Evanston’s heritage resources are of great importance, connecting residents to the physical environment and defining the city’s unique character and identity. However, Evanston’s living legacy remains undervalued and vulnerable to threats such as inappropriate change, rising rent structures, changes in the market economy and corresponding development pressures.“
Businesses seeking heritage recognition nominate themselves to the city and, once approved, are listed in an online registry and receive a plaque for their location. City officials have drafted a request for proposals for artists and web designers to create plaque designs and websites, which he tentatively plans to issue on Sept. 22.
The program also provides grants and assistance to keep organizations open and successful. Areas of support proposed include physical and feature restoration, marketing and strategic planning assistance, rent stabilization and lease renegotiation support between businesses and landlords. .
Sterling said long-term lease negotiations will be particularly important.
“Many of these businesses do not have long-term leases, so for businesses with stable rent structures, we try to negotiate 20-year leases and such,” Sterling said. “There’s the usual stress of running a business day-to-day, but it’s like, ‘Will my building be demolished for a different purpose, or will he get a rent increase when the lease changes every two years?'” There is also constant stress. ,” and all of that is very stressful.
The task force initially identified a list of 31 long-standing companies as potential pilots through its own research and is now compiling a list of nearly 200 companies and nonprofits submitted by community members. from Google Forms.
Businesses on both lists are diverse in Evanston locations, whether they offer goods or services and whether they have stores open to the public. 67 has been in use for at least 50 years and 13 has been around for over a century.
The Working Group’s next meeting is scheduled for Thursday, September 29th at 4:00 pm in Civic Center Room 2402. Owners of the 31 companies on the first list have been invited to attend and, in Stirling’s words, “act like a steering committee.” For the working group moving forward.