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Friends call for Civic Center charrette

Leaders of the Friends of the Civic Center Monday proposed holding a design charrette — an intensive series of public meetings — to develop "practical and realistic scenarios" for renovating Evanston's city hall.

Leaders of the Friends of the Civic Center Monday proposed holding a design charrette — an intensive series of public meetings — to develop "practical and realistic scenarios" for renovating Evanston's city hall.

In the wake of nearly 83 percent approval by voters last week of the Friends-backed advisory referendum calling for keeping city offices in the existing building, Friends leader John Kennedy urged aldermen to authorize the charrette project by their next meeting, May 14, so that it could be completed before many residents head off for summer vacations.

Mr. Kennedy said the effort would be organized by community volunteers with experience in architecture and other design skills.

"We'd like a positive working relationship with the city staff and council to realistically look at costs and options for staying in the building," he added. "We have a lot of talent in the community, architects, designers and others. Many have agreed to participate in the charrette. We all live here, and we all have something to contribute."

Mr. Kennedy said the charrette process could be funded through foundation grants and volunteer contributions. In the debate on the Civic Center's future, he added, "Reliance on outside experts has netted us nothing to date except bills for $200,000."

He said the charrette meetings could explore whether it's realistic to keep city offices in the building during renovation, whether the hundred-year-old building can be turned into an environmentally-efficient "green" structure and what organizations might be willing to rent some space in the building from the city to help offset renovation costs.

"We're not promising miracles," he said, "but we are offering citizens' time and expertise."

There was no immediate response from aldermen to the charrette proposal.

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