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Crown plans advance amid rising costs

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Evanston aldermen this week voted to move forward with plans for a new Robert Crown Center, amid rising costs and with a new, higher goal for private fundraising.

Costs, which had been estimated at about $29 million in 2013, have now risen to a minimum of $40 million — with a recent schematic design cost estimate from McHugh Construction coming in higher still — at $46.3 million.

Marty Lyons.

Assistant City Manager Marty Lyons said the increase to the $40 million figure has three main components:

  • $4.8 million in construction cost increases as a result of 3 percent annual inflation in such costs since 2013.
  • $5.7 million in features and space added to the planned building as a result of requests made at community meetings.
  • $750,000 in payments to a fundraising consultant hired to facilitate the search for private donations.

Meanwhile, the non-profit Friends of the Robert Crown Center, has agreed to raise its fundraising goal for the project from $10 million to $15 million.

It already has gained pledges of $9.4 million.

“It’s happening,” Friends President Daniel Stein said in a statement. “We’ve had hundreds of donors and dozens of stakeholders put their faith in a concept that will serve every Evanstonian.”

But the increased private money, assuming it comes through, will cover less than half of the increased costs.

Lyons said the city and library have committed to issue $12.5 million in bonds backed by property taxes and another $4.5 million in bonds to be paid by recreation center revenue, as well as transfer $1.5 million from the parking fund to pay for the parking lot at the center and $1 million from the sewer fund to pay for drainage improvements.

That leaves total funding $5.5 million short of the minimum current projected cost of $40 million. Aldermen didn’t address how they plan to close that gap during Monday’s meeting.

The Crown Center now runs at break even on an operating basis, Lyons said, with revenue and expenditures of $2.17 million.

He forecast that the new center will see at least a one-third increase in visits and will generate enough revenue to have an operating fund surplus sufficient to cover the abated bond debt and establish a maintenance fund for the new building.

Architect Andy Tinucci.

The aldermen voted 8-0 Monday night to approve the schematic design for the new building prepared by Woodhouse Tinucci Architects and extend the firm’s contract to prepare final designs for the project.

They also authorized issuing a request for proposals for a construction management service for the project and a contract extension for fundraising consultant Community Counselling Services.

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