A Legacy Business Program Designed To Help Legacy Businesses Survive And Succeed

Council members, city staff, and local business owners are collaborating on a program to ensure that Evanston’s longtime businesses and nonprofits can remain part of the community in the future.

The new Legacy Business Program, still in its early stages of development, will provide direct support to Evanston-based businesses and nonprofits that have been in business for at least 20 years.

Bennison’s Bakeries is an example of an outdated business. Credit: filed

The program is being developed by a working group led by Council Member Claire Kelly (District 1) and includes Council Member Melissa Wynn (District 3), Karl Klein and Susie Reinhold of the Preservation Commission, Economic Development Manager Paul Zalmazek, and city planner Cade Sterling. .

Its statement of purpose explains that legacy businesses are defining features of Evanston and the surrounding area, and that their loss would harm both the city’s heritage and its economic viability. It says:

Evanston’s heritage resources are vital, linking its inhabitants to their physical environment and defining the city’s unique character and identity. However, Evanston’s living heritage remains largely underrepresented and vulnerable to threats such as undue alterations, increasing rent structures, changes in the market economy and related development pressures.

Businesses seeking heritage recognition will nominate themselves to the city and once approved, they will be entered into an online registry and given a sign showing their location. The City is creating a request for proposals for artists and web designers to design the plaque and website, and tentatively plans to release it on September 22.

Hecky’s Barbecue, an Evanston establishment since 1983, has been one of the longstanding businesses named by First Ward councilor Claire Kelly as a legacy. Credit: Evanston Chamber of Commerce

The program will also offer grants and assistance to organizations to keep them open and successful. Support areas offered include physical restoration and refurbishment of distinctive features, assistance with marketing and strategic planning, as well as rent stabilization and support with lease renegotiations between businesses and landlords.

Sterling said long-term lease talks would be especially important.

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