Evanston’s Civic Center Committee voted Wednesday night to recommend spending $1.5 million to replace the building’s deteriorated slate roof with asphalt shingles.

The panel rejected the idea of using slate for the new roof after a consulting firm, McGuire Igleski & Associates of Evanston, concluded slate would cost more.

The consultants estimated the initial cost of a slate roof at $2.1 million. The slate roof could last 75 years, compared to a projected 50 year life span for the asphalt shingles.

Amortized over the roof’s life span, that would make the installation cost of a slate roof somewhat less.

But architect Ann McGuire said the annual maintenance cost for the slate roof would be about $20,000 — four times as much as for an asphalt shingle roof.

She said the brittle nature of slate means it tends to need more repair, and the skilled tradesmen required to do the repair work also cost more.


Evanston’s Civic Center Committee voted Wednesday night to recommend spending $1.5 million to replace the building’s deteriorated slate roof with asphalt shingles.

The panel rejected the idea of using slate for the new roof after a consulting firm, McGuire Igleski & Associates of Evanston, concluded slate would cost more.

The consultants estimated the initial cost of a slate roof at $2.1 million. The slate roof could last 75 years, compared to a projected 50 year life span for the asphalt shingles.

Amortized over the roof’s life span, that would make the installation cost of a slate roof somewhat less.

But architect Ann McGuire said the annual maintenance cost for the slate roof would be about $20,000 — four times as much as for an asphalt shingle roof.

She said the brittle nature of slate means it tends to need more repair, and the skilled tradesmen required to do the repair work also cost more.

McGuire’s firm considered two other roofing materials that would have an initial cost slightly less than slate but more than asphalt shingles.

She said synthetic slate shingles would cost $1.9 million initially and cost about $5,000 a year to maintain. But while the synthetic slate is projected to have a 50-year life span, it has only been in use for about 10 years, so there’s no way to tell for sure how long it will actually last.

She said a standing-seam metal roof would cost just over $2 million initially, but would likely last only 40 years and would need an estimated $7,000 a year in maintenance work. The metal roof was the only solution considered that McGuire said would not be “historically appropriate” to the age and style of the building.

The cost estimates for all versions of the roof project also include repairs to the roof sheathing, and the gutters, downspouts, flashing and tuck pointing.

McGuire said that the roof on the older, 1907 section of the building has generally held up well, but that it is near the end of its expected useful life.

The slate on the 1927 addition was replaced in 1988 but the plywood sheathing used in the repair job was installed incorrectly, she said, leading to problems with slates breaking and water leaking into the building.

City officials say the contractor on that job has since gone out of business, making it impossible for the city to recover for the mishandled job.

The future of the Civic Center has been a contentious issue for years.

A few years ago most aldermen strongly favored replacing the aging former Catholic girl’s school with a new building.

But the slump in the real estate market has blocked financing schemes for the move and, with the election of several new aldermen this spring, the City Council now seems committed to fixing up the building and staying put.

City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz, asked Wednesday by Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, how long he expects the city will stay in the existing building, replied, “I’ve informed the staff they should plan to be in the building for a while, at least a 20-year window.”

All six aldermen present at the meeting voted in favor of the roof repair plans, and Alderman Ann Rainey said that Alderman Melissa Wynne, who was not present, favors it as well.

That suggests the project should have no trouble winning approval when it comes before the full nine-member City Council for a final vote.

John Kennedy, head of the Friends of the Civic Center group that had campaigned to save the building, said he was pleased to see the aldermen moving forward with the repair project.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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5 Comments

  1. 75 more years in the rickety old Civic Center?
    “The consultants estimated the initial cost of a slate roof at $2.1 million. The slate roof could last 75 years, compared to a projected 50 year life span for the asphalt shingles……..Amortized over the roof’s life span, that would make the installation cost of a slate roof somewhat less.”

    But nobody seriously expects this old schoolhouse (“Civic Center”) to be around for even 50 years.

    Even if we accept the 20 year estimate of the City Manager, what is the point of using fancier roofing materials? Why are we amortizing over 75 years, when 20 would be more realistic?

    Supposedly the argument for the Civic Center – instead of building a new energy efficient ADA compliant building downtown – is that ‘we need the money now’. Yet when they want to spend more money on the building, they justify it with long-term calculations.

  2. City Hall Roof
    Whether you talk 10, 50 or 75 years for the roof, does it make any difference ? Does anyone even expect the building to still be there in 10 years ?

  3. City Hall
    Instead of spending all the money on a white elephant, why not use 1890 Maple which last I knew everyone was trying to find sometime to do with it. It certainly should be large enough for the city government—apply the Procrustean bed to employment.

  4. 1.5 million
    I am quite familiar with the roofing business…

    The roof of Evanston Civic Center equals approximately 250 squares (10’x10′ sections). Tear-off should cost approximately $100,000. Materials for a clay tile roof would cost approximately $300,000. Materials for a slate roof would cost approximately $400,000. Various other material, including new batting, copper flashing, nails, gutters and downspouts, and new felt, would cost approximately $100,000. Qualified labor comes in at approximately $1,000 per square, or $250,000. Throw in another $50,000 for graft, incompetence and wasted consulting fees. Altogether, a competitively bid new slate roof should cost the City no more than $900,000.

    This price does not reflect the value of the reclaimed slate and copper, which most roofers fail to mention or credit back to their customers. Further, roofers always bury a mark-up in their estimates for building permits and waste-hauling permits. These mark-ups would probably be included in the bids, but are not applicable in this case.

    We’ll never know what a slate roof might have cost because the City relied on a consultant; they didn’t seek proposals from the real world.

    Assuming we stay in the building, money for a slate roof would be well spent…they are beautiful and easily last a hundred years.

    Thought the taxpayers would want to know.

    On a related note, see this earlier article: evanstonnow.com

    Mike

  5. Finally! I am proud of the
    Finally! I am proud of the new alderman and our new manager for bringing about some much needed common sense and getting our Civic Center roof repaired. It was an embarrassment for many many years, not to mention paying thousands of dollars for the scaffolding so nobody got killed with flying pieces of slate. And all the while, the City took many property owners to court for not maintaining their buildings! It was shameful. The former group that was in charge let the building fall into disrepair; then claimed it cost far too much to fix.

    With a new roof, updating of the utilities and normal, on-going maintenance (That is the key to owning any building.)there is no reason that the Civic Center shouldn’t be a serviceable for the next 100 years. That building is certainly built better than any new construction that a current City’s budget would pay for. Hopefully the management of our City have realized that keeping our current buildings maintained is far less expensive than building new ones – and greener too!

    Good for you – keep the common sense coming!

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