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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3 Comments

  1. Civic Center
    I suppose I ought to throw away my U of C MBA because we are entering a new field of city economics that I just cannot comprehend.

    Evanston has a $140 million pension obligation that should be met by 2033. Moody may downgrade our credit, raising borrowing costs. The real estate market is cooling rapidly, thereby reducing future tax revenues from development. Several of the mentioned sites, especially the present police and fire facility are short of parking — unless half the floors will be parking. I suppose residents can walk from their homes, our new environmental coordinator could supply maps and directions on recycled city bond notes.

    Of course our taxes can go up!

    1. Consultants again?
      Since the pension obligation deadline is 2033, I believe this isn’t looked at as real serious issue. $140 million is a big money, but it doesn’t look so big when the obligation is 25 years away.

      My biggest question is how much this ‘consultant’ is being paid for this service.

      It seems like city is paying aweful lots of consultants for many different services. It seems like this is a different consultant probably costing more consulting dollars to investigate this latest fad on moving the Civic Center.

      Can city please pay a consultant on investigating on not raising taxes and streamline way Evanston government is being operated?

      I think city really should cut the fat and hire a consultant to reorganize the entire Evanston government. It would be similar for a corporation streamlining and downsizing to make itself efficient. Once this happens, that is when they should look into hiring consultants to best house city center like a Civic center.

      About this idea about moving this to fire/police station is a bad idea which will cost too much at the end. I will say all this consulting dollar for this is well spent, after more consulting and investigation, they realize this is a horrible idea that Evanston will not afford.

  2. Civic Center should be reused
    I understood that when the City initiated an Office of Sustainability, the City is will be looking at doing everything possible make good sustainable decisions. Throwing away a perfectly good building because the City has neglected maintaining it is just outrageous.

    Everything I read identifies that the BEST green thing to do would be to rehab the existing building and not putting it into a landfill – or expend the materials to build a new building. I don’t hear this aspect of the decision making mentioned anywhere in the study. One hand doesn’t seem to know what the other hand is doing.

    We need to have fewer consultants and more common sense in City government.

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