By Bob Seidenberg
Proximity to transit, solid household demographics and a strong Northwestern University student and faculty base located nearby all played into a Birmingham, Alabama, firm’s purchase of a prime piece of downtown Evanston real estate.
Chicago-based Quantum Real Estate announced in a July 5 release the sale of a portion of the Church Street Plaza development to SW Neighborhood Centers II, an affiliate of Shannon Waltchack, an Alabama-based commercial real estate firm, for an undisclosed price. Quantum represented the seller, GW Properties, the Church Street Plaza developer, in the transaction.
The 9,589-square-foot retail center Shannon Waltchack purchased is located across Church Street from GW’s 1817 Maple Ave. movie theater property.
It houses Semper Laser, Pure Barre, Noodles & Co., CycleBar and Big Wig Tacos.
We are excited to add Church Street Plaza to the SWNC II portfolio. With its great tenant lineup, strong demographics and location near a major transit hub, this center will continue to serve the Evanston community well,” said Andrew Patterson, the firm’s president and partner.
The firm’s new purchase combines multi-level high-rise with ground floor retail. “This kind of fits in with our strategy and we’re really excited to add it to our portfolio,” said Suzanne Echols, the firm’s marketing director, in a Thursday phone interview. The property is the company’s second acquisition in Illinois, she said. The other is in Bloomington.
Mass transit a big plus
One feature that caught the company’s eye is the convenient transportation. “We really love the mass transit stations that are nearby,” Echols said, referring to Church Street Plaza’s location just steps away from the Davis Street CTA and Metra Rail train stations.
Evanston, Oak Park and Wilmette are the only towns in the metropolitan area with rail lines in that kind of proximity.
The company noted that the Davis Street el station “sees more than 3,400 passengers per day. The CTA also features two bus stops within 500 feet of the property, giving retail tenants excellent visibility and high daytime foot traffic.”
The site also benefits from “exceptional demographics,” such as “a daytime population of 41,336 and an average household income of $137,800 within a one-mile radius of the property.”
Also figuring in Shannon Waltchack’s interest was the site’s “close proximity to Northwestern University … which is home to over 30,000 students and faculty. Additionally, Sherman Plaza, 807 Davis St., sits adjacent to the subject property and features over 68,000 square feet of retail space and over 250 apartments.”
Echols said the company’s strategy is focused on service-based tenants that are “Amazon-proofed” in that “you’ve got to be in physical proximity to the site to use the services” – a criterion the businesses located along the block currently meet.
Trampoline park coming soon
Paul Zalmezak, the city’s economic development manager, noted that the retail strip is located at the base of an office building. He said GW is now able to focus on the core assets of the plaza that it didn’t sell.
Some improvements at the AMC Evanston 12 movie theater space have been delayed, he said, due to pandemic-related staffing shortages, material costs, as well as changes in the movie industry.
Work to create a trampoline park adjacent to the space has turned out to be a major undertaking, Zalmezak said.
“We think it’s going to be done in the next few months,” he said. “They have all their permits, they have what they need.”
The aim is that GW’s core assets – the movie theaters and what used to be Urban Outfitters – “would be transformed into, really, a family destination – with family-focused restaurants, a jump zone for kids – [a place which] keeps families and adults from having to go to Niles or other places for their entertainment venues.”