Autobarn Evanston—a longtime fixture on Chicago Avenue—is planning to expand its reach to a major site in southwest Evanston and seeking city dollars to do so.
The dealership plans to relocate its automotive service centers to 222 Hartrey Ave., the former location of the Shure Brothers Company facility, behind the Target on Howard Street, according to a press release from the city.
“The addition of this major automotive center to Autobarn will serve as a vehicle preparation, storage and display center, as well as a centralized site for administrative operations,” Autobarn owner Richard Fisher said in the release. "This will massively free up space and reduce congestion at our Chicago Ave. locations.”
Fisher said the new site would have the capacity for almost 1,000 cars for storage or display.
City spokesperson Eric Palmer said in the release that the city would work with the dealership to keep its operations in Evanston—and that could include financial assistance in the form of tax-increment financing and other government aid, according to city documents.
Evanston officials are expected to present a combination of possible funding sources for the expansion to the economic development committee at its next meeting, Aug. 7. Autobarn estimates that rehabilitation and construction on the Shure Brothers facility could total $8.5 million, according to a memorandum prepared for the meeting by city manager Wally Bobkiewicz.
When Autobarn first opened in Evanston in July 1992, there were five other dealerships in the city. Today, however, Autobarn is the only dealership located in Evanston—and that’s partly due to city assistance.
Seeking a larger space, Autobarn bought property in Skokie and planned to relocate to Oakton Street in the early 2000s, according to the memorandum. But city officials brokered a deal with Autobarn in 2005, agreeing to share sales tax with the dealership in order to fund an expansion to the former Toyota dealership at 1015 and 1033 Chicago Ave.
All told, the city reimbursed $1.35 million in sales taxes to Autobarn as part of that agreement, which ended in 2013, the memorandum says.
Autobarn has a contract to purchase the vacant lot at 222 Hartrey Ave. for $2.55 million, where it plans to store some vehicles, conduct some services and house some office functions, according to the memorandum.
Proposed sources of funding in the memorandum include an extension of the sales tax sharing agreement, an incentive from the county that could reduce the assessment on the property, or tax-increment financing (TIF).
Technically, the property lies just outside the border of the Howard/Hartrey TIF District, which is scheduled to expire in tax year 2016. But city staff are investigating whether the TIF district could be expanded to included 222 Hartrey Ave., according to the memorandum.