A city consultant showed Evanston aldermen Tuesday several options to address severe Civic Center maintenance issues — including building a new city hall at police headquarters.

Architect Carol Ross Barney presented drawings illustrating four main approaches.

1. Rehab

The city, she said could rehab the existing building, adding a mostly-underground new parking structure for 350 cars on its west side. That would let the city sell a 1.3 acre section of the existing open parking lot for residential development to fund part of the rehab cost while maintaining the existing 2.8 acre public park.

2. Rehab and expand

This option would rehabilitate the existing building and add a new north wing. That would raise the building’s total square footage from 112,000 to 127,000 square feet. A report last year by Skidmore Owings and Merrill concluded that the city needs between 116,000 and 134,000 square feet of space to operate efficiently.

3. Build new on same site

Ms. Ross Barney suggested the city could avoid the large expense of relocating city offices during construction by building a new civic center on the parkland behind the existing building and then demolish the existing building and turn that area into a new park fronting on Ridge Avenue.

4. Build new on new site

She suggested new sites could include the existing police station at Lake Street and Elmwood Avenue or the city parking lot in the 1700 block of Chicago Avenue, just north of the Woman’s Club of Evanston and east of the public library.

She said buildings on those sites would need to be about 15 stories tall to provided the needed office space. Those sites, she said, could provide convenience parking for customers transacting business with the city during the day, but because of space constraints, city employees and larger groups of citizens attending evening meetings would need to park in nearby city garages.

Study continues 

Ms. Ross Barney’s firm is about half-way through a two-month consulting contract with the city to develop optimal design solutions for resolving the lingering Civic Center crisis.

Several aldermen expressed interest in the police station as the site for a new Civic Center and several expressed reservations about the site near the library. So it appeared the consultants will focus on the police site as the model new site for the rest of their study.

John Kennedy, leader of the Friends of the Civic Center group that has fought for preservation and renovation of the existing building, noted that none of the discussion Tuesday focused on the cost of the various options. He said the city, with its looming pension funding crisis, needs to focus on the least expensive alternative, which his group contends would be rehabbing the existing building.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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