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Council reviews strategic plan draft

After more than six months of meetings, the city and its consultants have come up with 14 goals for the strategic plan scheduled to be adopted by City Council next month.

The draft plan will be presented to residents at a public meeting at 7 p.m., Tuesday, Jan. 24, in the auditorium of Evanston Northwestern Healthcare Hospital, 2650 Ridge Ave.

(Update 1/13/06: Copies of the draft plan are now available online.)

The plan sets several two-year objectives to measure progress toward each goal. The council reviewed those in a two-hour meeting Saturday morning.

Economic development
City Finance Director Bill Stafford said the transformation of downtown Evanston over the last five years is “nothing less than spectacular.”

He said the next step is to produce an economic development plan that addresses not just downtown, but also neighborhood development, attracting and retaining businesses and attracting more “creative class” workers to the city.

In addition, he said, the plan calls for revising the zoning ordinance to encourage development and speed the project review process.

Housing
City Planning Director James Wolinski said Evanston has always prided itself on providing housing for people of many different income levels. With new construction of condos and single family homes for the relatively wealthy, he said, the plan calls for developing a comprehensive inclusionary housing policy to preserve Evanston’s diversity.

He said the city “just the other day” received its first $10,000 payment under the recently adopted teardown ordinance.

A proposal to generate affordable housing funds from new construction projects is before the council’s Planning and Development committee, and Mr. Wolinski said the planning staff hopes to have a plan to raise affordable housing funds from condo conversions ready this spring.

Also in the spring, he said, staff expects to present a plan to help moderate income homeowners who need money to maintain their homes but earn too much to qualify for federal programs.

Infrastructure
Facilities Director Max Rubin said his staff is using a new software package developed by the federal Corps of Engineers that will create 10-year forecasts of maintenance needs for city buildings and equipment. That, he said, will help meet the strategic plan goal to have high quality infrastructure and facilities.

He noted that the council will discuss plans for the future of the Civic Center at a special committee meeting Jan. 17 and said the recreation department will produce a report soon on maintenance needs at the Robert Crown Center.

Natural resources
Linda Lutz, manager of the city’s ecology center, said the staff will develop a report to address water quality issues in the North Shore Channel and improve recreatonal opportunities there and will also develop a plan to provide open access to the city’s beaches.

Other goals
The strategic plan draft also calls for improving the city’s neighborhoods, enhancing the city’s transportation resources, increasing participation of youths in city government, creating more skilled trades jobs and improving vocational training.

It urges increased collaboration with Northwestern University, other non-profits and local business groups.

And it calls for improving city hiring and retention policies, reviewing the function of all city boards and providing outstanding service to local residents.

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