In a discussion Tuesday night Evanston aldermen agreed to have staff continue to explore the possibility of relocating city employees from the Civic Center to the Evanston Public Library downtown.
“I’m really encouraged by the opportunity to move downtown,” Alderman Robin Rue Simmons, 5th Ward, said, adding that she hoped the existing Civic Center building might then be converted for use as workforce or affordable housing, hopefully with an opportunity for people who would move into the renovated spaces to own their units.
Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, stressed that aldermen weren’t making a decision to move, but said “it’s prudent to know what our options are.”
Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, noting that the Council has been discussing alternatives to the Civic Center for decades, said “this is long overdue.”
She said the Council was told even a decade ago that the Civic Center had much more space than the city needs and with the increase in people working remotely, there’s even less need for so much space.
Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, said it was probably a mistake for the city to have moved out roughly 70 years ago from the old city hall at Davis Street and Sherman Avenue, on what’s now part of the Sherman Plaza development.
She said building the new branch library as part of the new Robert Crown Center has helped “distribute the wealth” of the library system across the city in a very positive way and makes it possible to consolidate activities at the downton site “to provide the space we need.”
Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, said she was concerned that the library would be inconvenient for people attending late-night city meetings, if they had to walk to the Church Street parking garage on a snowy night at 11 p.m. or midnight.
Alderman Tom Suffredin, 6th Ward, questioned whether moving city staff downtown would have the favorable economic impact that staff had estimated it would for downtown businesses.
Paul Zalmezak, the city’s economic development manager, conceded that no specific study of the potential move’s economic impact has been done, but said that as a reule of thumb office workers spend about $100 a week in the immediate area around where they work — both shopping and dining.
Interim City Manager Erika Storlie said she’s already had discussions with library staff and the library board and said she believed she could return to the Council at its June 22 meeting with a more fully developed proposal.
City services might move to library (5/23/20)