EvaDean’s proposal to use part of Wilmette’s Veterans Park for outdoor dining sparked debate among residents and local officials earlier this year. Three months later, the discussion has evolved but plans for the new restaurant and bakery still generated robust discussion among trustees.
Despite some disagreements among trustees over the breakdown of funding, the board ultimately unanimously approved on Tuesday, May 23, a licensing agreement that will allow the downtown eatery to use of the village-owned Veterans Park.
As previously reported by The Record, EvaDean’s — which in the former home of Lad & Lassie at 1115 Central Ave. — submitted a request in February asking the village to permit food and drink service in an outdoor dining space that would be constructed in Veterans Park.
During the February meeting, trustees laid the groundwork for a shared space between the restaurant and village. Trustees showed overall support for the proposal and directed village staff to prepare an agreement solidifying the details for future review and approval.
Village Manager Michael Braiman walked trustees through a presentation detailing the key components of the proposed agreement. Village staff’s proposal called for EvaDean’s to pay for the $60,000 in construction costs associated with the park improvements, and for the Village to purchase ($15,000), own, maintain and replace the outdoor furniture, Braiman told trustees.
Staff’s proposal also included a condition requiring EvaDean’s to add exterior lighting, and potentially cameras, for security purposes. EvaDean’s would pay to Wilmette an annual $1,000 licensing fee for the use of the space and to support regular maintenance of the village-owned furniture.
Opinions on the proposal were mixed among the board, with some trustees expressing concern over the village’s level of investment in the project while others shared thoughts that Wilmette was not contributing enough to the project.
Trustee Kate Gjaja proposed a greater cost-sharing between the restaurant and the village, offering a suggestion that EvaDean’s pay two-thirds of the cost while Wilmette pays the final third. That structure would raise Wilmette’s contribution to $25,000 and lowered EvaDean’s to $50,000.
“It’s difficult to ask EvaDean’s to share the space at all times that they’re open and then pay for all the space to be renovated so that it can be used for outdoor dining,” Gjaja said. “It seems more fair to me that there be some more cost-sharing with the village.”
But Trustees Stephen Leonard and Gina Kennedy worried about the village’s previous investment in Veterans Park and the actual benefit it will receive from this project.
“I’m a little concerned about the level of investment in this project already,” Kennedy said, noting the $127,000 that was spent on repairs to the park in 2021. Of that total, Wilmette spent $25,000 with a grant covering the remaining sum.
“This is a permanent improvement and it’s mostly to the benefit of EvaDean’s,” Kennedy said. “It’s next to their building, if they should have to sell the building, and we hope they don’t … they would get the value of having this area for future dining and it will enhance the value of their property. So, it seems to me that we’re not really getting much particular value out of this project.
“We’re letting people use the park land, which would normally be open to the public all the time, and although the tables are going to be available for use by the general public even during hours that EvaDean’s is open, I sincerely doubt that that is going to happen very often.”
Gjaja said she valued the restaurant’s willingness to work with the village toward a fair agreement.
“I really appreciate the attitude that they have brought to this, which has been very much of a partnership attitude and a can-do attitude and in my opinion (they are meeting) us more than halfway on this,” she said. “So I’m just looking to make sure that we’re meeting them as far as we think we can meet them that’s right for the residents.”
The board’s final approval agreed to all the conditions laid out by staff with the exception of the requirement for EvaDean’s to pay for the lighting. Wilmette will reimburse the restaurant for the cost of the lighting and will not require security cameras from the beginning. If it is later determined that cameras are required, Wilmette reportedly will cover the costs.
Additionally, the board decided to remove part of the agreement that required two new trash receptacles near the west end of the project, eliminating approximately $2,400 from the restaurant’s expense sheet.
“We are all very excited that you’re coming and I think initially we weren’t thinking of pitching in anything, and now we’re realizing it’s fair and we want to help you and we want your business to be successful,” Village President Senta Plunkett said. “We may have differences of opinion on what exactly we want to put our money in but the point is we do all feel that we should pitch in for something.”
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Martin Carlino is a co-founder and the senior editor who assigns and edits The Record stories, while also bylining articles every week. Martin is an experienced and award-winning education reporter who was the editor of The Northbrook Tower.