City officials unveiled four concepts for a potential redesign of Fountain Square in downtown Evanston at a meeting Wednesday night in a vacant storefront in the Sherman Plaza development.

About two dozen residents turned out for the session. Public Works Director Suzette Robinson said the session, combined with online feedback on the proposals to be gathered starting later this week, would hopefully narrow the list of design concepts to three.

Then after further public feedback, Robinson said, the city hopes to winnow the contending design concepts to two — at which point it would seek proposals to develop more fully detailed design proposals.

She said she hopes that the redesigned plaza can be built next year.


One concept calls for what city consultant Teska Associates describes as a family-friendly, imaginative play space.

A diagram of the playspace proposal.

A photo of a fountain in Portland, Ore., used to illustrate the playspace concept.

All-season community programming

Another concept focuses on events and activities that could take place in the square.

A diagram of the all-season design.

The proposal suggests something like this ice rink in Washington, D.C., could be part of the all-season design.

Vibrant event space

The consultants also suggested a different spin on the event space concept.

A diagram of the “vibrant” event space concept.

This “shared street” in Batavia, Ill., was used to illustrate one aspect of the event space concept.

Sustainable space

The fourth concept presented focused on emphasizing the city’s dedication to environmental sustainability.

A diagram showing the “green” design.

A rendering of what it might look like to walk through the “green” design.

All the different designs include a fountain and a veterans memorial — both features of the current square.

Robinson said she believes any design should also include something the city’s forestry director, Paul D’Agostino, wants — a large evergreen tree — so the city doesn’t have to continue to cut down live trees to have a holiday tree to decorate in the square.

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Planning session set for Fountain Square rebuild

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Where does the money come from?

    I love all these wonderful ideas. I am all for them when Evanston has extra money!!! Evanston is way in the RED and bleeding more every day. Stop the madness! We need to start running our city with a responsible budget. Every Evanston family understands how to make ajustments. You don’t spend what you don’t have. Why can’t our City Manager and the city Ald understand that? When you don’t have extra cash, you only do the “NEEDS” and you do not even think about the “WANTS”. Our roads are in terrible shape in many of the Evanston neighborhoods. I can list a bunch of things that would be way ahead of beautification projects. Why are we worrying about Fountain Square and Penny Park???? I believe we need to fire the City Mgr and everybody on the City Council. Then replace them with Evanston mothers with children. These ladies would show them how to make thing work within a budget. If Evanston families need to live within their means, why shouldn’t our City?

    1. Mothers on City Councll

      Hi Michael,

      Six of the nine aldermen, and the mayor, are women, and they all are parents. So your theory that electing mothers to the City Council would result in more budgetary restraint may need some work.

      — Bill

      1. True, but …

        What is the financial status of each alderperson and mayor?  Unless they are required to release their tax returns to run for public office, we won't know.  If they are more well off than the majority of Evanston residents (although we do have a number of wealthy people living here) then thy are not as impacted by tax increases to fund all these "wants" rather than just the "needs".

    2. False Equivalency
      Whenever someone wants to whip up hysteria about budget deficits, he or she invariably begins with an analogy to a household’s budget: “No household can continually spend more than its income, and neither can the federal government”. On the surface that, might appear sensible; dig deeper and it makes no sense at all. A government budget bears no obvious resemblance to one for a household. But since this analogy is invoked so often, I hope that the next time you hear it used you will challenge the speaker to explain exactly why. If the speaker claims that government budget deficits are unsustainable, that government must eventually pay back all that debt, ask him or her why we have managed to avoid retiring debt since 1837. Is 173 years long enough to establish a “sustainable” pattern?

      1. Deficits

        Hi Billyjoe,

        If Michael had been talking about the federal budget, your comment would have been on point. The federal government — in part because it prints our money — can successfully run deficits.

        However, the City of Evanston can't print money, and it is legally obligated to balance its budget each year. It does borrow money, of course, to finance capital projects.

        Under-funding of pension obligations and a high overall level of debt have placed serious strains on Evanston's finances — but the city has taken steps in recent years to start bringing both of those problems under control. Whether those steps will prove to be sufficient is an open question.

        — Bill

    3. Fountain Square

      Valid points but the money is coming from the Washington National TIF which expires in a few years. Your comments about firing everyone is ridiculous. If you have such great ideas why don’t you run for city council! I believe, that for the most part, city officials are doing an admirable job under the circumstances. By the way Bill, your math is a little off as there were about 50 residents attending the meeting. As you came in late, maybe you missed some in your count.

    4. I love the idea of a play

      I love the idea of a play fountain in Evanston. But maybe someplace safe like one of the lakefront parks. A tiny plaza between three big streets does not seem like the place to have lots of barefoot small children getting too excited not to run into traffic….

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