EVANSTON — Evanston's alderman on Chicago's northern border said investments by the suburban city, like taxpayer-funded loans to new cocktail lounge Ward Eight, are helping boost business on both sides of the street.
"I think us just doing things is going to energize that side of the street," said Ald. Ann Rainey, of Evanston's 8th Ward, during a recent forum filmed for Evanston Community Television.
The program, called "The Reporters," can be streamed online through Evanston Community Television's website.
Rainey, a longtime member of Evanston's city council, applauded the City of Chicago's streetscape project on Howard Street east of the "L" station, but said most of the investments — and many safety problems — originated in Evanston.
She stopped short of criticizing Chicago, however, and commended Ald. Joe Moore's (49th) efforts in other parts of his ward.
"The city of Evanston is the same size as the 49th Ward. I can't criticize Joe for not being on every block," she said. "I think he'll get to Howard Street when he gets around to it."
In an email sent Monday, Moore said he and the Chicago City Council had done more than what Rainey gave him credit for, including work on the Gateway Shopping Centre, the Howard Street Special Service Area and the improvement of several troubled Chicago-side businesses, like Howard-Hoyne Foods and the Tally-Ho pub.
Moore also noted that Evanston's use of tax increment financing to subsidize private investments was even more "aggressive" than what would normally be done in Chicago.
"It remains to be seen whether this will spur actual private investment on both sides of Howard, but I hope it does," he said.
Evanston purchased three buildings, with the help of TIF funds, in the past few years along its border and leased-to-owned one of them to Ward Eight and another to Debbie Evans, a partner in both cafe Towbar and upscale shop Taste Food and Wine in Rogers Park.
Evans and company plan to open a brew pub in the fall, called the Peckish Pig, at 623 W. Howard St. in Evanston.
Rainey also spoke about Howard Street crime, such as the case of 61-year-old John Costulas, a hearing-impaired man from Rogers Park who was beaten to death and robbed in 2011 on the Evanston side of the street while walking to the train station.
She also said she had kept an eye on City of Chicago building code violations regarding Siblings bar, which eventually caved in to pressure and closed its doors for good in May after allegations of being a magnet for gang members and crime.
"I think a lot of the issues were on our side," she said of Howard's troubled buildings and business.
But the street has improved, she said, and the city was "just starting" with its investments, hinting about plans to lease the city's third Howard Street building to an Evanston theater group.
"We really don't have slums north of Howard anymore," she said. "What I like to talk about is Howard Street being a success."