Evanston’s mayor and the city’s public works director met with about three dozen residents at World of Beer Monday evening to answer questions about the Fountain Square renovation project going on just outside the bar.
Mayor Steve Hagerty said one of the biggest differences people will notice with the new design is that the streets as they pass through the square will be raised to the same level as the sidewalk, and the north-south streets will be made considerably narrower than they are now.
Public Works Director Dave Stoneback said the streets will rise about six inches over a four-foot ramp — designed to alert drivers that they need to slow down and be aware of pedestrians in the area.
Eliminating the difference in grade between the streets and sidewalks will also make it easier to hold large public events in the square.
The traffic lanes will be separated from pedestrian areas by metal bollards. That led to a question from a resident concerned about whether the bollards would be sufficient to prevent an incident like the recent ones in London where attackers drove trucks onto bridge sidewalks, mowing down pedestrians.
Stoneback said the bollards would extend several feet into the ground, so they couldn’t be easily knocked over, but said staff was reconsidering the proper spacing for the bollards now that parking meters are being removed from the square.
Other residents suggested there should be a crosswalk mid-block between Davis and Grove on Sherman, saying many people cross the street there now. But Stoneback said mid-block crosswalks give pedestrians a false sense of safety and that intentionally was not part of the redesign plan.
Stoneback said he expects the project to be “95 percent complete” by the end of the construction season in late November.
He said one issue right now is working out an agreement with the state public health agency about the zero-depth pool — with an array of fountain jets — that’s planned as the square’s new centerpiece.
The water in the pool will be no more than a quarter inch deep. But Stoneback says the state agency contends it needs the same sort of floodlights to illuminate it that would be required for an outdoor swimming pool.
And, if you’ve walked through the square recently and wondered what that huge slab of concrete uncovered about three feet below the surface is, Stoneback says it’s a Commonwealth Edison vault for electrical cables.
It runs just under the location of the old brick monoliths honoring the city’s war dead — which is also the location planned for the new glass wall to honor them.
A copy of a diagram of the renovation plan distribued at the meeting,
More details about the project are available on the city website and in our related stories.