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About 20 people turned out Tuesday night for yet another meeting aimed at coming to consensus on how the city should rebuild Fountain Square in downtown Evanston

Public Works Senior Project Manager Stefanie Levine led the participants through a description of four conceptual designs for the square and sought their comments.

Public Works Director Suzette Robinson said staff hopes to summarize the community feedback for City Council late this month or in August and get the council to narrow the field to two concepts that could be more fully developed into preliminary designs with detailed cost estimates.

Some of the people who turned out for Tuesday night’s meeting.

After that, Robinson said, the goal is to settle on one final design and have it completed by next January, with construction to occur later in 2016.

In a previous open house session and in responses tallied by the city’s 311 center, residents were asked to say which of the four designs they liked least.

Of 33 people who voted at the open house, the largest number, 11, said they least liked the Red concept — billed as an all-season space for community programming.

But of 90 people voting through 311,, the largest number, 31, said they least liked the Green concept — billed as an innovative sustainable design.

About all the two groups agreed on is that the smallest number of people in each group — a total of 19 people across both groups — chose the Purple concept — billed as a vibrant, pedestrian-oriented event space — as their least favorite.

What any of the votes mean is further complicated by the reality that some features on one plan could be dropped into other plans, and there was little consensus around that Tuesday night, although one speaker was adamant that the square should not have a public restroom facility.

Several people did seem to really like the idea of locating a permanent holiday tree in the triangular traffic island south of the square so the city would no longer have to cut down a tree and haul it into the square each year.

The concept plans for the square also involve a variety of changes to Sherman Avenue in the block between Church and Davis streets — ranging from widening sidewalks to turning the entire block into a “shared street” that would eliminate curbs and make it easier to close off the entire area to vehicles for special events.

The “shared street” is part of the Purple concept — which also turns out, based on preliminary estimates, to be the most expensive, at $5.5 million. The price for other concepts starts around $3 million and heads up from there.

Much of the funding for the project is expected to come from the tax increment financing district that includes the square.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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13 Comments

  1. I do not like any of the 3

    I do not like any of the 3 presented designs. All 3 cost to much. There must be better and more important things on which to spend our limited tax dollars. They reduce available parking. Having sidewalks at the same level as streets creates a safety issue for pedestrian. Curbs are there for safety.

    Over the last forty years, downtown Evanston has lost all of its charm and character. What would it cost to move the old 1960's fountain back? 

    Or, if you don't like my idea, you can just put up your permanent giant aluminum holiday tree.

    1. Face it Evanston is not Glencoe—it is more like Chicago
      In many ways Evanston is an extension of Rogers Park. It lost being the nice bedroom suburb with downtown parks, ‘French’ type cafes, people walking the streets at 1 AM [even 10 PM], parks looking like someone’s vision of 1890. We are long past that.

    2. charm and character?

      Really?  I think downtown Evanston is better than ever, certainly the best it has been in my 30 years of living in Evanston.  I do not romanticize those vacant storefronts, dilapidated ugly old buildings and lifeless, empty streets.  

      Recalling the crappy center of town, the Osco at Sherman & Davis, that broken down & crumbling parking garage, etc, etc etc, as an environment possessing charm and character is bit of a stretch. 

      I much prefer all the restaurants, movie theaters, plentiful parking garages.  The sidewalks, now bustling with people day and night, are proof that many thousands of others share my sentiment.    

      1. Sounds like you would be

        Sounds like you would be happier living on Chicago's Magnificent Mile or New York's Time Square. These are places that most people say "nice to visit but I wouldn't want to live there". Each to their own opinion.

        You don't remember the fountain from the 60's. It was a lot better than what was there in the last 50 years.

        Hope your move works out for you and your family.

        1. I disagree Skip, it sounds

          I disagree Skip, it sounds like you'd be happier if you moved to Winnetka. I've lived in Evanston all 43 years of my life.  Downtown has never been better.  If Winnetka is too wild, try Mayberry,

        2. Times Square?

          Your comparing downtown Evanston to Times Square & Michigan ave?  Seriously?  Talk about a real disconnect from any reality.  No wonder you romanticize crumbling city garages, crappy Osco corners and empty old dilapidated buildings as having "character" that needs to be preserved.

          So actually, it's best of luck to you and your move. I hope you can find a place where you can happily relive those golden olden day's with that hazy bucolic Mayberry memory you so romanticize.   

          1. The 1st city garage was not

            The 1st city garage was not built until the 1970's and they held the world's largest garage sale every July or Augest. It was just south of the Osco on Sherman.

            Oh, the Garage was brand new and not crumbing.

          2. 1st garage

            That garage, from day one, was obviously nothing but a hulking brick monolith. There was no retail placed at street level, just walls of brick that did nothing but deaden the whole block.  Character?

            Church st. with the exception of the current bank building and old Fields bld, (both wisely rehabbed) was basically nothing but shabby single story sorriness. Couple that with the 2 story white bunker that faced Davis/Sherman and the 9 to5 plain brick bank across the street, all capped off with the dilapadated woolworths that hadn't excuded vigor since the 40's, just what are you trying to romanticize? Osco? The worlds largest junk,er garage, sale?

            Now the streets have been activated with storefronts, healthclubs, salon/spa, and lots of active residential density. In other words, it's been urbanized and downtown is way better off for it. 

      2. the olden days

        well…going back to the 1950s – 60s….Marshall Fields, Lords, Wally Reid, Cellini Shop,  Huerbingers, Huddleburgers, Lyttons, The Varsity & Valencia Theaters, a doll boutique store, and another for selling thousands of socks, jewelry/accessories, Seville's Flowers, and MANY more, and a lovely place to just stroll around any time of the day or night…..never saw any crime or police presence…..teens could walk around and grab a burger…..no guns, cell phones, multiple liquour establishments, police patrolling, muggings…..we even walked home many times….no fear!  There was no need to even feel that way.  

        I miss the good ole' days!   I'm glad I grew up when I did…..most of the things going on are intolerable….keep the fountain going…..keep whatever charm can be held on to……the Downtown area was like a little separate entity…

        1. Those olden golden days

          You miss the gold old days and find things "intolerable"  You then say you miss the movie theaters, flower stores, jewelry stores, etc. etc.

          Yes, the names of retailers have changed, but the last I looked we have a great movie theater, we have flower stores, bookstores, toy stores, jewlery stores, hardware stores, blah blah.  

          And more people now than ever before stroll around at all times of the day or night. My teens are always downtown to grab a burger, or better yet, take advantage of the now greater opportunities to get healthier options.  And neither I nor them, or anyone I or they know, have any fear of walking around downtown, day or night. 

          "I miss the good ole' days!"  Yes things change, but funny how they really don't.  I suppose it's just a natural process to wistfullly romanticize the good old days of one's youth.  That may explain why you basically see mostly retired, older people fighting change when it gets proposed.    

        1. No fountain in the square?

          Hi Jeff and Skip,

          Since the nearly 40-year-old fountain is failing, only working about half the time now according to city officials, your "just flowers" plan would presumably soon result in there not being a functioning fountain in Fountain Square.

          Some people think that would not be a good thing.

          The project cost estimates also include repaving the 1600 block of Sherman Avenue and various other work in the immediate area. The estimated cost of doing all that work without changing the existing design while also replacing the fountain and the plaza around it with a replica of what's there now is $2.9 million.

          — Bill

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