Evanston’s Economic Development Committee gave conditional approval Wednesday night to plans to turn a vacant lot in the 1100 block of Dewey Avenue into a tot lot.

The proposed 5,542 square foot park site.

Evanston’s Economic Development Committee gave conditional approval Wednesday night to plans to turn a vacant lot in the 1100 block of Dewey Avenue into a tot lot.

The proposed 5,542 square foot park site.

The approval to spend up to $50,000 of city funds on the project was conditioned on backers of the park finding the rest of the money needed — now estimated by the city’s parks chief, Doug Gaynor, at over $350,000.

Emy Brawley, of the conservation group CorLands, told the committee that commitment was enough for her group to go ahead with planned purchase of the property for $70,000 from the bank that has foreclosed on it.

CorLands would then hold the property for up to three years while the community organization and the city sought to raise the rest of the funds.

Up to half the purchase price of the land could come from a state open space land acquisition grant program that has a July 1 deadline for applications, so supporters are hoping the full City Council will vote to go ahead with the plan at its next meeting June 10.

Seven of the city’s nine aldermen are on the Economic Development Committee, and only one, Alderman Coleen Burrus, 9th Ward, voted against funding the tot lot project.

Burrus, a fundraiser for Northwestern University, said she doubts supporters, who’ve formed the Grandmother Park Initiative, will be able to come up with the money needed, because the tot lot will serve only a small segment of the community. She also suggested moving forward instead with plans for a tot lot at Robert Crown Park, a large city park located just a block-and-a-half from the 1125 Dewey Ave. site.

Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, raised questions about the long-term cost to the city of removing the lot from the tax rolls, but ultimately voted in favor of the plan.

Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, said she believes any improvement to Robert Crown is years away. Wynne said she doubts the city will see any significant revenue loss during the time the conservation group holds the land waiting for the rest of the project funds to be raised.

She said tot lots built in her ward have improved the areas around them. “There’s no question they’ve altered the nature of the community and who buys in the neighborhood,” she added.

The neighbors group had originally requested the $50,000 from the city’s Dempster Plaza Neighborhood Improvement Fund, which was created to receive a slice of anticipated sales tax payments generated by the shopping center a few blocks from the park site.

The payments were intended to be used for projects designed to mitigate community impacts from the shopping center development.

But city officials recently discovered that because of accounting errors, the fund — instead of having the money the park group wants — actually has a deficit of nearly $34,000.

And, because of low occupancy levels at the shopping center, the development isn’t currently generating enough sales tax revenue to replentish the fund.

Alderman Lionel Jean-Baptiste, who’s 2nd Ward includes the tot lot site, said the community group’s initiative shouldn’t be allowed to fall apart because of the city’s accounting mistake. And he said he’s convinced that ultimately the plaza will be revived and generate revenue to reimburse the city for the park expenditure.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Playground Equipment/ Grey Park/Albany Care

    To save the City of Evanston some money, perhaps instead of purchasing new playground equipment for this tot lot, the City can just tear out the existing playground equipment from Grey Park across from Albany Care and move it over there.  There probably has never been a single child to ever play on the equipment at Grey Park because no responsible parent would ever allow their children anywhere near all of the crazy people walking around there.

    1. You cannot fight with ignorance

      To dp_witt-

      A family member of mine calls 901 Maple, Albany Care, home.  Let me tell you first hand that you are ignorant. "Crazy people walking around there"…I am offended and feel as though you should not be allowed to post  anymore on this site.

      I guarantee that if I were to post something on this site referring to a group of adults with mental disabilities as "retards" Mr. Smith would not allow it.

      So dp_witt, I would bring my children to Grey Park to visit a family member , my only fear would be hateful people like yourself  would be in the midst.

      1. Insensitive language is not the big issue here

        "So dp_witt, I would bring my children to Grey Park to visit a family member , my only fear would be hateful people like yourself would be in the midst.. "

        Yes, dp_witt’s choice of terms was not good…but what about the bigger issue?  

        With  Grey Park and Albany Care, I have read elsewhere that neighbors are disturbed by the actions of some of the residents of this facility.  I don’t know if the neighbors’  concerns are justified, or just fear and ignorance.  

        However, the fact is that we do need facilities like Albany Care ,  Professional Assistant Center for Education (Central Street),  Mather,  and Boys Hope Girls Hope – along with hospitals and prisons – to house people who need to live in assisted or supervised settings.    These facilities need to be located in places that are accessible to employees and visitors – but often nobody wants them in their neighborhood.

        We cannot let NIMBYs prevent necessary social service facilities from being constructed in their neighborhoods, while they keep the Civic Center, branch libraries, and fire stations in their neighborhoods.    Also, we cannot just  dump all of the  ‘less desirable’ facilities on the south and west sides.

        I say:  if any neighborhood wants a branch library, it also needs to accept a group home.  If any neighborhood wants a fire station, it needs to accept a recycling center.  If you want the City to pay to protect your stupid elm trees, you need to allow rental units on your street. 

        And….if you want your parents or family members (or may yourself) to be able to live in a nice facility like the Mather or Presbyterian Homes, you should not make life difficult when they try to build a nice new facility in Evanston. 

        So being willing to visit a family member at Albany Care is not enough.  Would you be willing to allow a facility like Albany Care to open up on your street?  Enquiring minds want to know. 

        Instead of focusing on insensitive language, we need to remember that NIMBYism is the greatest threat to America.

  2. That was quite ignorant

    I cannot believe that in 2010 there are still ignorant people in our community who use the word "crazy" to describe people with mental illness.  The residents at Albany Care and Greenwood Care are PEOPLE.  They are human beings who have unfortunatley been dealt the crappy card of living with a brain disease.  They did not choose mental illness and it is not their fault.  Each person who lives at those facilities has been screened by officials at the state and deemed appropriate for community placement.  Some of them may look or act different from you.  But, they have the right to sit in the park all day.  They have the right to pace down the street.  They are members of this community.   

    And just for the record, there are other agencies in this community who house people with serious mental illness in your neighborhood.  They live in houses and apartment buildings next door to you – there’s no big sign on the front door that announces it.  You may or may not know that they have a mental illness.  They may or may not receive case management services. They may or may not take their medications.  At least the residents in these facilities have staff supervision.  You may not like what you see but you must recognize that such facilities have very strict regulations on what they can and cannot do. 

    I pass plenty of parks throughout Evanston where teenagers (and often younger) are smoking pot, calling names to passers by, and barely have on enough clothes to be considered decent.  Where are their responsible parents?  

    1. Albany

      I am sorry for an insensitive choice of words, but it doesn’t change my view that Albany Care is a blight on the neighborhood.  If it were to lose its government funding and shut down I would be a happy man.  So would many homeowners and families in the area.  Others might not be willing to stand up and admit it, but I guarantee you that if that day were to come, they would be secretly be very happy.  The quality of life of residents in that area would improve dramatically, property values would appreciate,  and local businesses would prosper as they would see a tremendous influx of customers previously unwilling to tread too far east of Chicago Avenue on Main Street.

      There may be a need for places like Albany Care, but places like Albany Care do not need to be located in the midst of a neighborhood with families, children, and retail businesses.  A community needs electricity to function, but that doesn’t mean that you put a coal-burning power plant in the midst of a residential neighborhood.  Same concept.

      Call me a NIMBY, ignorant, or insensitive.  I don’t care.  I’m right.

      1. I have a different opinion

        I live in the same neighborhood as Albany Care and I frequently shop on Main Street.  Just last week I had a warm and fuzzy I’m-so-glad-I-live-in-Evanston moment when I was in Ten Thousand Villages on Main Street and two Albany Care residents came in.  They were offered a cup of coffee and politely accepted.  They were treated with respect and in turn behaved in a very respectable manner. 

        I welcome the opportunity to teach my children about differences and compassion when we encounter someone from either Albany Care or Greenwood Care.  Perhaps it is because I have a disabled child that I am sensitive to this but I believe that there are many, many Evanston residents who feel the same way I do.  And no, I would not be "secretly happy" if they were driven out of town.

  3. You’re wrong!

    dp_witt –

    If you do not want a facility in your neighborhodd (where there is at least 24 hour staff to monitor residents) then I hope you know what the alternatives are.  If you read the series of articles in the Tribune during the winter months, you would know that the Governor has set up a task force to investigate the possibility of shutting down such facilities. Sounds good, right?  Wrong.  The community agencies who work with people with serious mental illness (Thresholds, Trilogy, Housing Options, C-4, etc.) are proposing to take money from Albany, Greenwood, and all other such facilities and house those residents next door to you.  That means they will live in their own apartments, scattered throughout the community.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not opposed to that entirely.  I believe there are some people who are able to live in their own apartments – with support.  But, there is no way that every person who has a mental illness can live independently with case management services a few hours per week.  This is what the community agencies are proposing.  So, if you think that big building is an eye sore, and the people who live there aren’t pretty enough to look at, or you’re tired of them asking you for a cigarette when you pass by – just wait until they live all around you.  Then there’s no Administrator to call, there’s no State Agency taking responsibility, it’s just a person with mental illness.  Which do you prefer?

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