Comments on The "Eastwood" Site (1700-1722 Central)

Summary of Discussion on East of Metra and The Eastwood Development Prepared by Jeff Smith

2007 Plan Visioning:

March 31, 2011 CSNA Central St. Development Forum summary:

Following the presentations, two different breakout groups brainstormed the "Eastwood" site (1700-1722 Central, former location of the Evanston theatres-and-stores complex). The idea here was not to dictate in any way, but to offer suggestions for uses that might "work." Discussion included possibilities for both commercial uses in a revamped version of the Eastwood, i.e., first-floor, and for an entirely new building concept on the site. The question was phrased in terms of "What would you like to see?" or "What could the neighborhood use?" with an eye toward what might be a viable and successful venture.

Housing: None of the participants expressed any antipathy to housing on the site. The controversy in 2006 had been primarily over the physical footprint of the project, not multi-family housing. Specifically asked if they would have objection to rental as opposed to condominiums, the workshoppers were ambivalent. So long as the applicable zoning ordinances are followed, the idea of even somewhat smaller (and thus more numerous) units than in the former Eastwood plan did not produce significant objection. A strong preference for first-floor commercial was expressed, however. One creative idea was that of "live-work space." Central Street has some shortage of available small office, loft, or studio-type space. Especially considering the presence of arts-related ventures on Central Street, artist-friendly space could be a draw.

Culture: The closing of the Evanston Theatres, which occurred in conjunction with the closing of the Bean Counter Cafe, left an entertainment vacuum on Central Street. Numerous suggestions centered around filling that void in some manner:

  • A theatre space that could double for both film (perhgaps with an emphasis on lesser-run arts, indie, or documentary film) and live performance
  • an art center
  • a specialty museum
  • a bowling alley

Food: There is already a serious food theme on Central Street. The "crown jewel" sector has 11 restaurants and cafés (Jilly's, Jacky's on Prairie, Symphony, Bluestone, Prairie Joe's, Pinto, Royin, Subway, Great Harvest, Linz & Vail, Starbucks), the Spice House, Foodstuffs, two bakeries, a candy shop, and (soon) a specialty oil-and- vinegar store. Central Street West has another 6 places to grab a meal or a snack, with a bistro on the way for #7. East of Green Bay, however, there's nowhere to eat or drink until you get to Mustard's (except for Top of the Tracks weekday mornings), altho a Bluestone clone or Mexican restaurant is long in the works for the former TransTech site. Thus these suggestions:

  • Many workshop participants urged a restaurant as part of the mix for whatever goes into the Eastwood site; the Italian restaurant Trullo was part of that block until shortly before demolition.
  • a coffeehouse especially in the evening was a popular suggestion
  • Trader Joe's, which seems to pop up in discussion of every vacant lot in Evanston, might fare well here
  • a wine bar or wine shop
  • a chocolatier
  • a small market or convenience store
  • a brewpub
  • a sausage & specialty meat purveyor

Retail/Service (non-food): No one was opposed to retail, but other than food not many ideas surfaced. A bicycle shop was suggested; the departure of the Schwinn store at Central/Ewing means no bike service or sales north of downtown. A bookstore would be welcomed; there is none on Central Street; the CVS and the 7-11 are the only places to even buy a magazine or newspaper. A yoga studio was suggested; a proprietor of an existing studio said she'd relocate to the 1700 block (closer to train, university, and the hospital) if space was available. Services that were expressly mentioned as not desired: a bank (plenty west of Green Bay); real estate office (ditto); a nail salon.