Evanston voters will face two ballot questions next month about the fate of the Civic Center after all.

Cook County Circuit Judge Susan Fox Gillis today rejected arguments by members of the Friends of the Civic Center group that a City Council-sponsored referendum would confuse voters and should be removed from the ballot.

The council’s proposal pegs the price of rehabbing the Civic Center at $31 million. The Friends group gathered more than 2,000 petition signatures to place a question on the ballot that urges aldermen to maintain the existing building as the headquarters of city government, without specifying a price tag.

In its answer to the residents’ complaint, the city provided a summary of five alternative scenarios for a new Civic Center developed by city consultant U.S. Equities.

The proposals listed include building on a Northwestern University-owned parking lot on University Place that’s now used for the Farmers Market, building on a city-owned parking lot on Chicago Avenue near the main public library, buying and rehabbing for city use part of the office and retail complex managed by Golub & Company at 1603 and 1629 Orrington Ave., building a new Civic Center on the existing site and rehabbing most of the existing building while tearing down and replacing its original 1901-wing.

Four of the five scenarios involve using land that is already tax exempt and thus show no tax impact from removing property from the property tax rolls.

The new construction scenarios all envision a construction cost of about $250 per square foot for a 90,000 square foot building, excluding the cost of land.

John Kennedy, an organizer of the Friends group, has argued actual construction costs would be much higher. He says a just-completed new city hall in Arlington Heights cost $400 per square foot.

Mr. Kennedy also contends that the consultant exaggerated the cost of renovating the existing building.

The consultant’s document also assumes that the city would be able to sell the existing Civic Center site for almost $12.7 million and that it could generate from new housing that might be built on the site incremental tax revenue worth nearly $25.4 million over the 23-year life of a Tax Increment Financing district.

The consultant’s report was prepared before recent proposals were made suggesting moving the Civic Center to sites on Evanston’s west side.

Related stories

Civic Center suit hearing Wednesday – March 17

Aldermen to try again on Civic Center – Jan. 7

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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