City May Acquire Former Gas Station Site at Church and Darrow

Evanston aldermen approved a motion authorizing the city manager to negotiate with the owner of 1801-05 Church Street, an 11,000 square foot vacant lot at the northwest corner of the intersection.

The city of Evanston may soon become the owner of an 11,000-square-foot lot at the intersection of Church Street and Darrow Avenue, the site of a former gas station. 

At Monday’s city council meeting, aldermen voted 7-1 in favor of a motion that gives the city manager authority to negotiate for acquisition of the property, whether as a purchase or through condemnation and eminent domain. Funds for the acquisition would come from the West Evanston tax-increment financing district, according to economic development coordinator Paul Zalmezak. 

Ninth ward alderman Coleen Burrus, who cast the no vote, said she opposed the matter because the site is in need of environmental remediation. Four underground storage tanks remain on the property, necessitating at least $75,000 in removal, backfilling and soil remediation costs before the site could be developed. To build a structure other than a parking lot or park space, future developers would also need to construct a foundation, an additional cost of at least $13,000, according to Zalmezak.


“I’m a little concerned that this limits our redevelopment possibilities for that corner,” Burrus said during the administration and public works portion of the meeting, when the item was first discussed. “What developer, what owner would buy a site with known environmental hazards?” 

Zalmezak said the city would combine the site with an adjacent property the city already owns, at 1708-10 Darrow Ave. to create a 16,000-square-foot lot. 

“It limits the city’s liability against future owners’ environmental contamination claims,” he said. 

In February, the lot at 1801-05 Church St. was appraised at $340,000, according to Zalmezak. However, property owner Daniel Cheifetz owes some $45,000 in back taxes, penalties and fees, and based on preliminary conversations with Cheifetz, the city believes it can acquire the property for $127,000, Zalmezak said. Cheifetz is known locally for his role as director of Enterprise Development Foundation, a nonprofit that owns the , just down the street on Church.

Including environmental studies, remediation costs and purchase price, Zalmezak estimated that the total acquisition costs for 1801-05 Church St. would be about $217,000, well below the site’s appraised value.

“It’s kind of a rare opportunity to get a property that’s significantly below market,” Zalmezak said.

Eighth ward alderman Ann Rainey, who ultimately voted to approve the motion, said she didn’t believe the council had enough information to make the decision. Specifically, she wanted to know whether the company that had purchased Cheifetz’ back taxes was willing to work with the city, and wanted more surety that he would agree to a deal.   

“It’s not like were dealing with somebody who’s been straightforward and easy to deal with,” she said.


Editor's Note: A previous version of this article contained incorrect information about the foundation. The city has since notified us that it's estimates about the foundation were incorrect, and we have updated the story.

J June 13, 2012 at 02:42 PM
Interesting. There's also an abandoned gas station at Crawford & Gross Point Rd., owned by Edgemark realty. A languishing eyesore, paying hugely reduced property taxes. Similar issues finding tenants who will pay for costly removal of underground tanks. Chase wants to put a bank on the corner & the adjacent lot, but has met w/ opposition from some neighbors. No other bidders. If the city is willing to consider buying up old gas stations under TIF, why hasn't THIS property been considered for the same option? Don't get me wrong, it would be great to get a commercial buyer, and Chase would be a good option in many people's opinion. But they've been dragging their feet, and neighbors are frustrated on both sides (those who want the project to go forward, and those who feel Chase hasn't been responsive enough to accommodating adjacent residents' concerns). If there were another option on the table, maybe it would light a fire under both sides. OR, maybe if the city considered a TIF for purchase and/or site cleanup, they could make that property much more marketable for multiple possibilities. I'm just saying, WHY IS A CITY PURCHASE AND/OR SITE CLEANUP PROPOSED FOR ONE ABANDONED GAS STATION AND NOT ANOTHER???
jim June 13, 2012 at 06:29 PM
J City missed the one on Crawford. erhaps they want to buy this cleanit up and give it to someone like the properties on Howard
Alan Goldberg June 13, 2012 at 08:07 PM
Just because an appraiser says the vacant, contaminated property is valued at $340,000, then it must be a good deal to buy it for less? With no end user in hand, this is a waste of tax dollars. Cleanup could be more expensive. Why not make the property owner clean up the site now with his own funds? He should just hand over the keys... oh yeah there are no keys .... just donate the property.
Jim Caldwell June 14, 2012 at 12:52 AM
"If the city is willing to consider buying up old gas stations under TIF, why hasn't THIS property been considered for the same option?" Because "THIS" property does not lie within a Tax Increment Financing District, so the City can not consider buying it "under TIF" - whatever you think that means.
J June 14, 2012 at 03:30 AM
Making the current owner clean up or donate the property would be great, if there is a legal means to enforce this. I don't claim to be an expert on financing or TIF issues. I merely wanted to raise the question of how one abandoned gas station qualifies for consideration while another does not.
lucas June 14, 2012 at 12:32 PM
Thats a good question. Why did City pay for appraisal in February. Wy not purchases for past due taxes?


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