Once the home of one of the first Marshall Field's and Sears stores in suburbia, Evanston remains an important shopping destination for the north suburbs and North Side of Chicago, with numerous commercial centers throughout the city. The principal ones are as follows:
- Downtown - centered around the Davis Street Metra and "L" stops, Evanston's downtown adjoins Northwestern University. There are over 300 businesses, several highrise office and residential buildings, three traditional low-rise shopping areas, an 18-screen movie theatre, and over 85 restaurants. It is roughly bordered by Emerson Street to the north, Dempster Street to the south, Ridge Avenue to the west, and the Lake to the east.
- Central Street - actually several shopping districts linked along the northernmost of the city's principal east-west arteries, with the most active clustered around the Central Street Metra station and characterized by specialty shops and restaurants in a walkable environment with an eclectic, vintage "small-town feel" strongly protected by the community.
- Dempster Street - just off the Dempster "L" stop; over 60 shops, many of them small and hip, including Bagel Art, the vegetarian Blind Faith Cafe, The Mexican Shop, 2nd Hand Tunes, lollie (children's boutique), FolkWorks Gallery, Union Pizzeria and SPACE, a music venue and recording studio.
- Main Street Station - approximately 3 blocks of mostly independent boutiques and restaurants abutting both a CTA and Metra stop, in a gentrifying neighborhood. Since 1917, the neighborhood has been home to the South Branch of the Evanston Public Library. After the original branch closed in February 2011 due to budgetary concerns, the Chicago Ave./Main St. Branch was opened down the street in January 2013, replacing an interim volunteer library that had been operated in that location by the Evanston Public Library Friends. The neighborhood is also home to the Evanston Arts Depot.
- Howard Street - many small shops line the city's border with Chicago; at the west end of the avenue, near the border with Skokie, Howard Center, a small thriving shopping mall, was built in the 1990s after some controversy.
- Chicago Avenue - not a separate shopping district per se, this extension of what is called Clark Street in Chicago runs parallel to the rail lines and is the principal north-south artery in Evanston from Howard Street north to its terminus at Northwestern University. Chicago Avenue connects the Main Street, Dempster Street, and Downtown shopping districts with a mix of small independent businesses and chains, including a busy cluster of supermarkets near its intersection with Dempster. Once home to a great number of auto dealerships, it has attracted numerous restaurants and a growing number of multi-unit residential structures.
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