No high-rises, casinos, water parks or marinas on the lakefront. That much Evanston aldermen seemed to be able to agree on Monday night.

No high-rises, casinos, water parks or marinas on the lakefront. That much Evanston aldermen seemed to be able to agree on Monday night.

The new Clark Street Beach restroom facility under construction this morning. It’s the newest development along the lake, replacing an older restroom building nearby.

But beyond that there seemed to be far less agreement about what’s right for the waterfront, and some aldermen suggested that an idea that might initially be proposed along the lake shouldn’t be squelched, because it might turn out to be great if it was just moved inland.

“Nobody’s talking about a water park on the lake,” Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, said. “But a water park at James Park might be a great idea,” she added.

“I don’t envision 43-story buildings on the lakefront,” Alderman Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, said. “But staff should actively look at anything that would be within” the lakefront master plan adopted last year.

“Any activity that comes” to the city staff “should be shared with the council, not just on the lakefront,” Rainey added. “I know there are mindsets from the past about certain kinds of activities. We have lost some really exciting opportunities. There’s always room for new discussion.”

But Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, argued for sticking close to the plan, which envisioned a focus on largely passive uses of the lakefront, with a minimum of buildings and commercial activity.

“I don’t want to be a stick-in-the-mud, but part of the reason why you develop a plan is so when a big ‘wow’ idea comes in you’ve already thought through what are your basic values and goals and aren’t reacting to every single thing that comes across.”

Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, told City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz, “I don’t want to preclude you from bringing an interesting idea, but I think it should be within the general parameters of the plan, not large construction, not a casino.”

Alderman Lionel Jean-Baptiste, 2nd Ward, said, “I’m not talking about scrapping the plan we have, but it’s not meant to be dogma. It’s meant to be a roadmap. To move forward and face our challenges we not only must enhance our resources but maximize their use.”

The new restroom building will also provide a control point for beach access.

Several residents who live along the lakefront, including some who opposed the new restroom project last summer, urged the aldermen Monday to avoid any new development.

Kathryn Stallcup of 144 Greenwood St. said people want to keep the lakefront “open, green and free from commercial development.”

Frank Cicero of 222 Lake St. said there should be a presumption against any additional structures at the lake because “they alter open space and block views.”

He called for adding restrictions on motorized boats, jet skis and parasailing saying the noise they make “causes discomfort and annoyance for most people.”

David Reynolds of 204 Davis St. said the lakefront offers something that can’t be found anywhere else. “Let it not be despoiled by commercialization on our watch,” Reynolds added.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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11 Comments

  1. Maximize their use
    “Alderman Lionel Jean-Baptiste, 2nd Ward, said, “I’m not talking about scrapping the plan we have, but it’s not meant to be dogma. It’s meant to be a roadmap. To move forward and face our challenges we not only must enhance our resources but maximize their use”

    That’s right. The lake is there for us to use…of course it should be protected from environmental damage, but there is no point of being on the lake if we aren’t using the lake, and it is for everyone to use – not just the members of the SE Evanston Association who live on the east side of Sheridan.

    And what is wrong with a 43-story tower, with a casino on the top and and IHOP on the ground floor, on the lakefront?

    1. In one paragraph you argue
      In one paragraph you argue that “the lake … is for everyone to use – not just [private residents]”, and in the next you argue turning over a huge chunk of it to private use. So which is it? Turning over public land for private use absolutely does not make it more public.

  2. Crapper would be proud
    Wow, what a architecturally beautiful structure given its purpose in life. Very nice use of form and materials to fit in to the surrounding environment.

    I fully understand the budget crisis, but it would be nice to see these at Lee St. and South beaches as well.

    On another note, one problem with governments is that ‘they’ are always seeking ways to increase revenue, no matter the outcome. Government couldn’t care less about the benefits to the community it serves, as long as it generates revenue it can then spend.

    My point is that the lakefront should be a peaceful respite from daily life. A place to go and relax and enjoy the simple pleasure without having to be obligated to pay for government developed ‘enhancements’ other than the general upkeep of the parks, beaches, and restrooms.

  3. Highest and Best Use
    You can’t please all of the people all of the time. Having said that, Evanston has an opportunity (and an obligation) to develop the lakefront to its Highest and Best Use. And with that end in mind, a marina and/or a waterfront amphitheater to enliven the lake shore and embrace the waterfront and bring people to Evanston should be priority number one. Currently living in the WPB area (moving back home in 2010), we have nothing but water down here and many “year-round” residents take it for granted. It was not until recently that town/city officials in my area started realizing what they had and started making the intracoastal waterfront an intricate part of our communities. But one doesn’t need to look at South Florida to see examples of this! One only needs to look to the city to the South. Chicago! Navy Pier is an excellent example of using waterfront to its Highest and Best Use (NOT that I’m suggesting a “Navy Pier” in Evanston; it just works for Chicago). Another example is the city’s Riverwalk. It’s a FANTASTIC use of space that for years! was under utilized.

    The soul-searching question Evanston needs to answer is: does she want to be a “sleepy college ‘town’ North of Chicago”; or, does she want to be a destination for ALL to enjoy! And if the answer is the latter, then it becomes WHAT, not IF, will be developed at the waterfront. You know what I’d like to see!

    1. Higher and better use
      Highest and best use seldom go hand in hand, but I do feel Evanston’s lakefront is under utilized and should be developed to improve both its social and economic value. Having grown up and lived in Evanston or very near for more than 30 years, my comments are based on life expierences and the opinions of friends from around the area. The area of the most recent improvements is not a sprawling undesturbed watershed or dune that needs protection, but should not be overdeveloped. It’s 4-6 blocks from the edge of a booming downtown, with a huge collection of shopping- dinning – live – work opportunities and bordering the Northwestern campus. It’s no sleepy little college town and sends out some pretty hefty tax bills to prove it. A marina – waterfront entertainment development with easy access (here it would be walking distance) to the downtown area would be an instant attraction with a social and economic upside. Myself and many I know would love to see at least a larger ramp area with short term tie up space, a place to eat, a public pier and a fish cleaning station. There are some expensive homes near by, I can understand concerns about traffic and noise, but will never understand how someone can complain about the noise from a para-sailer? This is an area bordering a big ten campus, a busy growing town center and a public park – water acces area deserving a higher and better use.

      1. Business in Evanston
        Rod Miller wrote:”the edge of a booming downtown, with a huge collection of shopping- dinning – live – work opportunities and bordering the Northwestern campus. It’s no sleepy little college town and sends out some pretty hefty tax bills to prove it.”

        In fact it is not a boombing downtown. How many places can you shop for shoes [other than outdoor shoes], basic clothes [0], electronics [2 and one is high end], appliances [0], groceries [0 if high end excluded], things a drug store carries [1], etc.. I never even bother to try to shop downtown because the percentage chance of finding it that my time is better spent taking the train to Chicago.
        The hefty tax bills testify to how poor the business, service and manufacturing base is. If all of what was called the Research Park closed, you would have even fewer businesses—you can rent office space in the Loop cheaper.
        The Council, listening to a fringe, has long sought to keep business of all sorts out—and now we pay with taxes, businesses closing and reductions in the city budget.

    2. “sleepy college ‘town’ North

      “sleepy college ‘town’ North of Chicago”; or, does she want to be a destination for ALL to enjoy!

      False dichotomy. Evanston doesn’t need to permanently ruin the lakefront with some ill conceived “it seemed like a good idea at the time” monstrosity in order to avoid being a “sleepy college ‘town’.” It just needs interesting businesses and organizations.

      100 years ago Chicago realized that the lakefront was a valuable public resource that should be accessible to and enjoyed by the public. That was a good idea that we should be remembering. We have some of the nicest stretches of lakefront in the entire metro area. Why ruin a good thing? It makes no sense.

  4. More development on the lakefront is needed
    I think this would be a great time to explore the idea of a year-round restaurant on the lake. My family and I would love to visit the lake during winter months, sit back, relax, have dinner and gaze at the beautiful winter lake views.

    It would be boon for tourism and downtown Evanston as well as Northwestern where concert goers can walk over for a few drinks afterward.

    Those few who oppose any commercialization near the lake I presume are also against the current hot dog stands, festivals and weekly concerts there as well? Maybe they want to put an end to boat rentals, too?

    The Evanston lakefront belongs to ALL residents, not just a select few who seem to think that more activity there will bring on too much noise for those FEW living nearby.

    If you want to explore ideas to expand activity on the lakefront then it’s time to speak up. Otherwise, the tyranny of the few will dictate the terms.

      1. What kind of restaurant?
        I agree with Al and SLFA. A restaurant on the lake would be a great idea…it would also be ‘unique’ – I can’t think of any other lakeside restaurants this side of Navy Pier.

        What kind of restaurant should it be? It shouldn’t be a high-priced place that only the wealthy can afford, but it shouldn’t be a fast food place like McDonald’s or Taco Bell..I think that it should be the kind of restaurant that would appeal to a wide variety of people…like families going out to Sunday brunch after church, or college students who want a place to study at 3am with a never ending pot of coffee..a place where I could stop by and get a quick breakfast in the morning, but also have a decent dinner menu, even though it would serve breakfast all day.

    1. I’ve often wanted a
      I’ve often wanted a restaurant somewhere in the metro region on lake michigan, but Evanston is absolutely, positively not the place for it. Anywhere that it would go would end up taking away what little lakefront space there is, which doesn’t make any sense to lose when there is plenty of lakefront in Chicago that could be redeveloped if the demand was that hi.

      On top of that, any approval for a restaurant there would be so scrutinized that it would only end up bland and relatively cheap, trying to appeal to everyone. At absolutely best you’d end up with something one step up from diner food. At that point, why even bother?

      Furthermore, what if it failed? Are we ready to have a potential succession of failed restaurants occupying whatever space is built or designated for this purpose? Are we ready to take up part of our lakefront park for a potentially vacant business?

      A restaurant somewhere in the metro region on Like Michigan is a great idea, but it’s an incredibly horrible idea for Evanston. Leave the parks alone. It’s not the kind of thing you can easily take back. Once you take away part of the lakefront for a restaurant, you’ve essentially given it up permanently. And for what? Average-quality burgers trying to appeal to everyone? No thanks.

      Those few who oppose any commercialization near the lake I presume are also against the current hot dog stands, festivals and weekly concerts there as well?

      I have no idea why you’d make that assumption. You really can’t understand the difference between an arts festival and the addition of commercial buildings to the lakefront?

      The Evanston lakefront belongs to ALL residents, not just a select few who seem to think that more activity there will bring on too much noise for those FEW living nearby

      Which would be why you’d leave it open as a park. This is metro Chicago, after all, so of all places we should all be aware of the best principle of the Burnham Plan: reclaiming the lakefront for the public. Now you’re arguing that turning parts of the lakefront into commercial space somehow makes it more open to the public? Huh?

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