Evanston aldermen tonight will get a report recommending that they move forward with plans to find a private developer to build a new Robert Crown Recreation Center.

The report from city staff says that a request for qualifications issued last spring drew responses from eight potential developers, and that after reviewing the proposals the list of candidates to build and operate the new center has been narrowed to three firms, all based in the Chicago area.

The report proposes as next steps that the city pre-qualify the three firms, conduct environmental assessments of the Crown site and a marketing study and then issue a request for proposals for to the three finalist firms to design, build, finance and operate a new ice rink and community center.

The cost of the studies is estimated at $150,000.

If the project moves forward on schedule, the report says the request for proposals could be issued by August and the new center, on Main Street at Dodge Avenue, might be completed before the end of 2014.

The plan for private construction and operation of the center is seen as a way for the city to avoid having to raise taxes to pay for a replacement for the 36-year-old building.

Update 7:35 a.m. 1/25/11: After a presentation at the City Council meeting at which leaders of the three potential development firms introduced themselves, the aldermen voted unanimously to authorize spending the $150,000 on the studies needed to move the project planning forward.

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Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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