Evanston’s downtown planning charrette wrapped up Saturday with planners suggesting a more pedestrian-friendly city center with narrower streets, more public gathering places and a wide range of building heights.

Fountain Square

A design, looking east, across an expanded Fountain Square.

After a week-long series of meetings that drew several hundred local residents, business and property owners into the discussion, the city consultants presented a series of conceptual drawings showing how those concepts might be implemented.

One concept would close off the stub of Orrington Avenue south of Davis Street to expand the pocket park in front of the Chandlers building and build a new fountain there.

That plan would also demolish the Fountain Square building to provide a new park space anchored by two obelisks honoring the city’s war dead.

And it would wrap the austere 1960’s vintage 1603 Orrington office tower with low-rise buildings of a more traditional design. 

Bookman’s Alley today

Another concept suggests turning the somewhat shabby looking Bookman’s Alley adjacent to the former Varsity Theater into a pedestrian mall with shops opening to the alley along both sides.

Bookman’s Alley re-imagined.

The consultants also suggest closing Clark Street from Sherman Avenue to Orrington to expand the park that fills the wedge between between Clark and Elgin Road.

The planners suggest narrowing several streets to provide more sidewalk space for pedestrian use.

Chicago Avenue sporting a grassy median.

For example, they would add a grassy median down the center of Chicago Avenue, widen the sidewalks and reduce its four travel lanes to just two.

They would also return two-way traffic to some one-way streets, arguing that the two-way traffic pattern is easier for drivers to understand and safer for pedestrians as well. 

The consultants suggest splitting downtown into 11 sub-areas that roughly parallel the traditional, transitional and core areas proposed by the Plan Commission’s Downtown Plan Committee.

Proposed building height limits would start at three to five stories in what the committee had labeled traditional areas, rise to 6 to 15 stories in transitional areas at the edge of downtown and top out at from 15 to 50 stories in different portions of the core.

The consultants call for revisions to Evanston’s zoning code that would:

  • Define public benefits with a rational formula.
  • Provide more accurate parking requirements.
  • Encourage green building and sustainability.
  • Focus on key urban design and architecture elements.
  • Protect Landmark buildings.
  • Code different areas of character in downtown.

The consultants are expected to have a draft downtown plan and zoning revisions ready for public comment by September.

The full charrette final presentation and other downtown planning documents are available on the city web site.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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1 Comment

  1. the downtown plan
    I see that the imaginary pipeline remains and the proposed extended middle finger delineates the center of downtown. I would prefer that the center be delineated by a public space honoring our heroes rather than another developer.

    The greatest threat to this — or any — downtown plan is our City Council overly enamored of developers. It was indicative, that despite an 83% margin in the recent referendum, that there was a map delineating potential sites for a new city hall.

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