Council approves brokerage contract on Civic Center move – this time in public

Evanston City Council members reapproved a contract Monday for a real estate firm to broker a move out of the Morton Civic Center, complying with a blistering opinion from the state Attorney General’s office that ruled the city violated the Open Meetings Act by signing the original agreement in closed session.

The attorney general’s public access counselor had flagged the city in a March 1 binding opinion, maintaining that an agreement the city had executed with Jones Lang Lasalle Midwest, a unit of the commercial real estate firm JLL, in a closed session Oct. 16 of last year, should have been done in public.

The agreement approved Monday made JLL the city’s exclusive real estate broker “to identify and evaluate the city’s acquisition of office space, as well as a workplace strategy and the disposition of Evanston’s current Civic Center at 2100 Ridge Ave.”

Based on JLL’s advice, council members voted 6-3 at their Jan. 22 meeting to direct city staff to negotiate a 15-year lease for new city office space at 909 Davis St. downtown.

909 Davis St. Credit: Ian W. Mitchell

“The agreement with JLL was not preliminary or tentative,” the public access counselor wrote in the opinion. “Behind closed doors, the City Council agreed to bind the City to an agreement with a particular firm that requires, among other things, a potential expenditure of hundreds of thousands of dollars if the Civic Center is sold.”

The opinion directed the City Council to reconsider and take final action on the city’s exclusive representation agreement with JLL in the open session portion of a meeting as soon as possible.

Officials presented the agreement for the council to consider at Monday’s meeting – this time in open session. Staff recommended approval.

“The agreement is at no cost to the City of Evanston,” Paul Zalmezak, the city’s economic development manager, said in a memo. “JLL will be compensated by the 909 Davis/Evanston Station building ownership.”

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