Evanston aldermen tonight are scheduled to vote on a staff recommendation to spend $477,500 to hire a fundraising consulting firm to run a campaign to raise contributions for a new Robert Crown Community Center.

The firm, Community Counselling Services Co. LLC, is headquartered in New York, but has an office with about 50 employees in Chicago.

The firm has done fundraising for numerous non-profit organizations, ranging from Evanston-based Rotary International to the Catholic Archdiosese of Chicago.

Last winter the aldermen set a goal of raising $5 million to $18 million in private donations to help fund either a replacement or extensive rehabilitation of the Crown Center. Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl is also urging aldermen to spend $10 million of taxpayer funds toward the rec center project as well as an additional $2.5 million to include a new branch library at the site.

CCS, on its website, claims that its fees typically add up to between three and eight percent of the contributions raised in a campaign — which would indicate a target goal of between $6 million and $16 million.

The proposal calls for the firm to conduct an initial feasibility study — interviewing potential donors — through this October and then conduct the capital campaign over the following 12 months.

A staff memo says both CSS and another consulting firm that submitted a bid for the project said the city isn’t ready to start fundraising immediately, because of its lack of an established donor base and needs to begin with the feasibility study..

Aldermen tonight are also scheduled to approve a parks and facilities capital improvement plan that includes spending $1 million next year to design a new or renovated Crown Center.

Previous cost estimates for a new Crown Center on Main Street near Dodge Avenue have ranged from around $20 million to as high as $55 million, with a renovation project estimated to cost around $18 million.

Update 9:15 a.m.: City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz now says that in the interest of getting tonight’s City Council meeting over in time for attendees to watch the Stanley Cup finals game on television, the capital improvement plan proposal and other items including the citywide youth services overview and an economic development update are expected to be postponed until a future meeting.

But hiring the Robert Crown fundraising consultant will still be up for action.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Half a million?
    “spend $477,500 to hire a fundraising consulting firm” “Last winter the aldermen set a goal of raising $5 million to $18 million in private donations”

    That fee is almost 10% of the lower (more probable) goal!

    Gee, just think what $1/2M could get for the decrepit locker rooms- hot water for the showers and a fresh coat of paint!

    How long is it going to take City Council and staff to figure out and commit to a plan for Robert Crown???

    1. 10% is a reasonable fee given

      10% is a reasonable fee given the work that's ahead of them.

      Needs more than a fresh coat of paint. We did that. The mold is already back. If you want that hot water, come to the meeting tonight and show support.

      1. new building

        Yes..please come!    A NEW building means that no programs would be disrupted.   The new site would be at the West end of the property.  The old Crown could remain usable, while the new one gets built.   This is important!  For years, bits and pieces of the facility have been patched, repaired, etc., and they just keep breaking down again.   The compressor system is as old as the building…there is leakage, which means mold growing:  flooring comes up, nothing is ADA compliant, and bathrooms, and other rooms are not located in areas for protection from "strangers".  Vandalism occurs in areas not able to be watched, and the center needs 2 more locker rooms for girls players.  This is the "short list".   Patching things can just keep going on for years and years without lasting effects, and with a constant money drain.   

        You can liken this analogy with an 80 year old person getting a face lift…but their heart is bad.  What's the point?   The root of this matter is the structure  and compressor system… fans out from there.  It needs to start from Point Zero.

      2. Support for what?

        For spending $1/2M and hoping that people make donations? Hope is not a plan.


        The City Council and staff have consistently come up short in their maintenance of the City’s assets. The Hawley Clark mansion was ignored and now the Council doesn’t know what to do with it. Robert Crown has suffered neglect and again, the Council doesn’t know what to do about it. The Noyes Cultural Center was in disrepair and all sorts of options put forth, but nothing decided. Fortunately, the roof was replaced. Ditto on the Civic Center.


        The only “plan” that seems to happen is waiting for a fairy godmother to come down with some extra money. Witness the Ladd Arboretum, where the path has been neglected for decades and then when some State money becomes available, the plan is to pave a road through it. The only other “ideas” seem to be selling or privatizing the asset- selling the Mansion, selling Chandler-Newberger.


        The pension crisis can be blamed on the State of Illinois and the country did suffer a major recession, but these other problems are entirely homegrown.

        1. Tonight’s meeting is the

          Tonight's meeting is the first step towards implementing a plan. No Fairy Godmothers required, but a consulting company that is experienced in raising money. Which is what we need; Guidance and experience in big projects like this one.

          No one said the only plan was Hope.

          1. Hope….
            I’m glad the only plan is not Hope. I should think we should all know by now that Hope is not a strategy….

        2. Have to agree with you

          This is a waste of money, which could be much better used on repairs or replacement.  How many studies on Crown have been done?  Wally wasted OUR money with a study to prove no private individual would finance Crown, he now is making all kinds of excuses for that mistake which cost us over $100,000.

          By the way what are they going to be fund raising for repair or replacement?

          Why doesn't the council just put this to the voters, that is  " Are you willing to have a 4-5 percent property tax increase for the replacement of Robert Crown"   once we have that answer then proceed.   I think some who support this are afraid it would not pass.

          Frankly the city does not have he staff to even manage this project through construction, yet alone come up with any well managed approach to get this even started.


        3. Sorry John,

          Sorry John,

          The mansion is a liability, not an asset. When the city finds somebody who is willing to take the mansion and the land it is on, it will become an asset to the city's tax account.

          The park land and beach, next door, should stay a park and an asset for the people.

          As far as the fundraiser, I really don't know. I do know that the library hired a high-priced fulltime fundraiser and it doesn't appear to have worked out. My opinion is based on the fact that we have only seen the same old fundraising events from past years and if there was something else, the library admin would be bragging about it.

          1. Mansion is a depreciated asset…

            …that has become a liability. Thanks for mentioning the library- another community asset that the City shortchanged to such a degree that there was a bit of a revolt and, taking advantage of an obscure State law, became its own taxing body.


            The only successful project undertaken by the Council was the storm sewer project. It did what it was supposed to- relieve sewage backups during heavy rain- and was paid for by increasing the sewage fee. That was planned and initiated in the '90's.

    2. The neighbors and residents

      The neighbors and residents don't take care of the property. Trash, broken glass, dog mess on the fields. Pearls before swine if we spend more money on this place. 

  2. More Green Space/Park

    City should just tear it down. Create more green space for all residents to enjoy. Perhaps add an area for community gardens. For residents to grow veggies.

      1. Referring to Robert Crown

        This would be great location in Evanston for some open space and Community Gardens 


  3. Really

    Another Library? Really. This is the only suburban town that charges parking to goto its main library let alone the other two. A town equal in size such as Arlington heights only has one and only needs one. Do we really need another satellite Library? NO. Oh, and AH  has how many park district pools. Four. Evanston, none. A valuable asset to this town would be a outdoor pool like at Centential Park in Wilmette. Yes, I pay out of town fees to go there, but it is well worth it for my kids. 

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