Aldermen on Evanston’s Administration and Public Works Committee asked city staff Monday night to do fresh research on the cost and design of fencing designed to discourage suicide attempts from the roof of the Sherman Plaza garage.

The action came at the request of Alderman Judy Fiske, whose 1st Ward includes the site.

Fiske said the cost of successful police efforts to prevent a woman from jumping from the garage in January provide another example of why fencing is needed.

She says residents of the condominiums at Sherman Plaza frequently complain to her about people sitting on the parapet wall surrounding the garage roof and notes that there have been several suicides and suicide attempts at the garage in the years since it opened.

In 2014 the city received a price quote of just under $25,000 to install a six-foot-tall chain link fence just inside the parapet wall. But aldermen voted against making the purchase that year and took no action when the idea was raised again early last year.

City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz said “there are different schools of thought” about whether a fence would be effective in deterring suicides.

Alderman Peter Braithwaite, 2nd Ward, said he doesn’t believe a fence could be built that would be high enough, and said he’d be more interested in the idea if the fence had barbed wire to be more of a deterrent.

Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, suggested doing more research on what would be an effective deterrent.

Bobkiewicz pledged to return to the Council with more information at its second meeting in May.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Hmmmm

    Maybe they should consider getting rid of the pointless man teetering on a steel beam overlooking Maple just around the corner.  They spent hundreds hof thousands on a this piece of “art” that certainly can be associated with suicidal thoughts and actions.  But then again what do I know.  

    1. Statue Man balancing in air does encourage suicide.
      I agree that the sculpture of the man balancing on a pole over the street does encourage suicide. Many are the times I have exited North Shore Behavioral Health at 909 Davis on a dreary winter day and that is the first item that grabs my eye. Not too cool.

  2. Barbed wire, are they serious
    Barbed wire, are they serious? Do they want it to look like the top of a prison? It’s a bit odd that this one building would have more suicide attempts than others. Not like there aren’t any other tall buildings around and people with balconies high up. They should probably just restrict roof access — problem solved. It’s not like it’s a beautiful roof deck that residents are using.

    1. “Roof deck?”

      Hi Bradley,

      We’re talking about the parking garage here. The “roof deck” is the top parking level. Cutting off access to it would eliminate roughly 1/12th of the total available parking in the garage.

      — Bill

      1. Ah, thanks for the
        Ah, thanks for the clarification. Now I feel stupid. But I stand by my barbed wire comment. Thanks Bill.

  3. Build the fence
    For $25,000, I think they should just build the fence. I initially considered it unnecessary, but it’s a small price to pay if it saves one life, and for whatever reason, this site has attracted a fair number of suicides and suicide attempts. I agree that if someone is determined to take their own life, they will find a way to do so, but I also think that making it harder may deter some people. I wouldn’t put barbed wire on it, though.
    As for the teetering people public art down the street, while I generally support public art, I think this particular work is misplaced if we’re concerned about people taking their own lives by jumping from the downtown garages.

  4. Openings on all floors

    Anyone who’s parked in this garage knows there are openings on every floor that a person could very easily pass through if they wanted to jump. Why would you bother to install a fence on the top floor when the floor below it is accessible and equally deadly?

  5. Molehills & mountains
    Let’s not make more of this than is actually here. Not to sound callous, but it’s not like people are jumping every week off of this or any other building in the city. These are isolated incidents with broader & more complex backstories that have more urgency then where someone chooses to end their life.

    If a person is depressed enough to want to end their life then they will find a way to do it. I understand we want to live in a world that is safe and protected from bad things happening but it’s something that simply cannot be accomplished. Put the $25k towards more productive suicide prevention option rather than a fence.

    And please, stop referring to the balancing duo sculpture when speaking of things that cause people to jump off buildings. You may be of the opinion that it lacks artistic substance but it’s a strawman argument that does nothing to move the dialogue forward on mental health issues at large and suicide prevention specifically.

Leave a comment
The goal of our comment policy is to make the comments section a vibrant yet civil space. Treat each other with respect — even the people you disagree with. Whenever possible, provide links to credible documentary evidence to back up your factual claims.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *