Fixing up Evanston’s Ecology Center could cost $3.4 million — or roughly $555 per square foot for the 6,200 square foot building.
That’s the estimate city staff will present to council members Monday night for upgrading the building at Bridge Street and McCormick Boulevard, much of which is nearly 50 years old.
That may seem like a lot, but it’s considerably cheaper than the $900 per square foot cost the City Council approved earlier this year to build a new 8,900 square foot animal shelter to replace that existing half-century-old building on Oakton Street.
On the other hand, the city has received a $2 million grant from Cook County and expects $1.2 million in private fundraising from the Evanston Animal Shelter Association for that project.
In a memo to the City Council, City Engineer Lara Biggs says the original portion of the Ecology Center building was constructed with a dirt-floor crawl space with two-feet or less of clearance, which makes maintenance work on utilities in the crawl space very difficult.
She says groundwater seeping into the crawlspace has caused corrosion and deterioration of utilities and structural supports leading to failure of the subflooring in portions of the building.
In addition, she says, the original HVAC equipment is insufficient to meet modern design loads, doesn’t meet current building codes and use refrigerants that needs to be phased out because of environmental concerns.
Making repairs, Biggs says, will require pulling up flooring in much of the building to get access to the damaged support joints and subfloor.
But she says doing a major rehab project on the building does provide an opportunity meet some Climate Action and Resilience Plan goals by eliminating natural gas use and upgrading plumbing fixtures to low-flow energy-efficient models.
Council members will be asked to tell staff their preferences about how much of the work should actually be done.
The Ecology Center project is just a small slice of what city staff estimate is in the range of $200 million needed to repair or replace key city buildings in the near future.