An aerial view looking northeast showing the Fleetwood Jourdain Center, with the peaked red-roof over its gymnasium, at center and Foster Field to the north. (Google Maps)

Evanston City Council members will be asked Monday night to spend $205,000 on consulting fees to explore options for including a replacement for the Fleetwood-Jourdain Community Center in the planned new 5th Ward School.

Interim Deputy City Manager Dave Stoneback, in a memo, recommends hiring School District 65’s design firm for the school, Cordogan Clark, to conduct a feasibility study for the combined project and that the city sign a memorandum of understanding with the school district to explore the collaboration.

In the memo he says that, “As currently proposed, the new school will require the construction of a multi-story building and parking structure, resulting in the total elimination of the Foster Field greenspace.”

He adds, “Staff is concerned that the scale of the proposed structures relative to the limited space on site will create numerous issues including loss of greenspace, loss of mature trees, security/safety issues, traffic congestion and an urban density that is out of scale and character with the surrounding neighborhood.”

Youngsters participating in a city summer camp program stand outside the Fleetwood Jourdain Center in July 2019. (Google Maps image)

He suggests that demolishing the existing Fleetwood-Jourdain Center and constructing a new joint facility under one roof could “improve site utilization, reduce density, share resources where possible, eliminate service duplication, construct a facility that better responds to community needs, maintain open greenspace and consolidate parking needs.”

The city owns the land on which the community center is located, but Foster Field — while it has been operated for decades as a city park facility — is owned by the school district.

The school district has pledged to open the new school in time for the 2024-25 school year, and Cordogan Clark is proposing to complete the feasibility study work for including a new recreation center in the plans by the middle of November this year.

Its proposal includes holding a number of town hall meetings with neighborhood residents and hiring another consulting firm to explore the feasibility of including a swimming pool in the new recreation center.

The city staff memo does not provide any cost estimates for building a new rec center or how it would be funded, although such projects typically are funded through the issuance of general obligation bonds.

A few years ago the city spent $54 million to construct the new Robert Crown Community Center. District 65 has budgeted $40 million to build its new 5th Ward school.

Update 8/9/22: The memorandum of understanding with the school district and the agreement with Cordogan Clark were approved on a 4-0 vote by the Administration and Public Works Committee.

Ald. Jonathan Nieuwsma (4th) called it “a great idea,” saying collaboration between the city and schools would benefit the whole community.

The full City Council approved the proposals without discussion on its consent agenda.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. In a few years, when people start wondering how the $40 million school became a $65 million dollar school and there is no money available to fix any of the other schools, we can look back at the ever increasing scope of this project and find our answer.

  2. Why is District 65 building a 5th Ward school when enrollment district-wide is down? And why are they destroying the black community center and lands to do it? I’ll guess that it’s because the 5th Ward has gentrified to the point that there are now enough white families who demand a neighborhood school so their children don’t have to be bussed, like the black children who lived there had to be for decades. For over 40 years, black residents of the 5th Ward have demanded a school in their neighborhood with no response from the District until the demographics changed. But now, the District wants to dismantle the heavily used playing fields for this expensive, too-late-to-help-black-folk-but-will-benefit-white-gentrifiers school and destroy the community glue that is Fleetwood-Jordain center. Dr. Horton, shame on you for playing into this potential fiasco. School Board, what are you doing? There’s plenty of space for current enrollment in the buildings you already have, and those need capital work for the students you are currently serving. The politics of the 5th Ward school have changed. If you truly want to help children of color, don’t divert District resources or destroy what’s already working. The 5th Ward needs Fleetwood Jordain intact.

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