A leader of the group Friends of the Civic Center is urging aldermen to open up their consideration of a new civic center to public discussion before approving purchase of a new site.

John Kennedy says the city followed such a process before building the new library and senior center and could do it again now.

In an open letter to the aldermen he suggests public discussion of the “location, size, access, image and financing costs” for the new building.

Some reports have suggested that the aldermen may be only a month or so away from signing a deal for a new site for the civic center, but none of the aldermen contacted for comment would confirm that timetable.

“It may get wrapped up soon,” Alderman Elizabeth Tisdahl, 7th Ward, said, “but it’s taken much longer than anybody thought it would, and I’ve turned out to be wrong in my estimates every time.”

Mr. Kennedy said he’s heard speculation that the aldermen are considering a site in the Research Park area downtown. Other speculation has centered on now-vacant industrial sites on the city’s west side.

Friends of the Civic Center has generally opposed relocating the headquarters of city government from its current location in the former Marywood Academy building at 2100 Ridge Ave.

But Mr. Kennedy said that since the aldermen have repeatedly rejected renovating the existing building, he’s not suggesting reopening the renovation debate at this point.

Alderman Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, said, “There’s been a lot of public input on the civic center already. She added that she believes it would be difficult to solicit public comment on a new site because of the need to negotiate real estate purchases in confidence.

Ald. Tisdahl said, “I don’t see how it would be feasible to be more public than we have been. When you get down to picking a site, there are all sorts of financial reasons not to have it be part of a public process.”

The Civic Center Committee held its most recent executive session meeting on Aug. 28. Another session is scheduled for Oct. 16

Mr. Kennedy said he appreciates what he sees as a shift in views among the aldermen from preferring to tear down the existing building to one of at least trying to save it, if only for a new use, perhaps as residential condominiums.

“I’m not trying to throw a wrench in this process,” he said, “I’m just asking for public discussion because I think it’s the right thing to do.”

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Has the city really done its home work on the new civic center?
    I have the feeling the city has not done a good job in developing real cost for a new civic center. They only recently start to do a program for the site, Over a year ago I asked them at meetings were this was!

    At first they appear to be only looking at sites versus knowing what they even needed.

    How to do reuse a building when you do not know what use you have for it?

    I also think they have grossly under estimated the cost of parking 800 employees and all the other cars that are city owned. The orginal estimates are very vague on all this. It is very likely cost of the new civic center will go over 30 million dollars!

    They will know doubt cover this all up – since in the begining they talked about 20 million or so. They will probably use the excuse it was material cost that made the price go up so high.

    The public last year was sold a poor bill of goods on the elm tree injection program the council wasted several hundred thousand dollars by not injecting all the trees – not to mention all the additional elms that got cut down -If history repeats itself they will end up wasting millions of extra dollars on building a new civic center.

  2. I’m sure that our aldermen
    I’m sure that our aldermen do not want the new site to be debated publicly. Perhaps the existing Civic Center could be converted to professional office condiminiums for doctors, dentists, and the like. By doing that, a developer could realize a profit on a sweet deal and people in the immediate neighborhood would not have traffic increased. As it is, traffic comes into the neighborhood surrounding the
    Civic Center as residents are leaving to go to work
    in the mornings, and traffic is leaving the Civic Center in the evenings when residents are returning.
    I have attended a number of the Civic Center Committee meetings and leave dismayed because whenever a citizen dares to question the real cost of a new Civic Center; that individual is told that it is none of their business and that it is inappropriate (or worse) to question what certainly
    looks like a smoky room deal. The citizens of this community are not stupid.

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