As they work to develop long-range plans for Evanston’s many public buildings, aldermen toured seven city-owned recreational facilities this weekend that officials say need several million dollars in repairs over the next few years.

Here’s a rundown of what they saw.

Chandler-Newberger Center

The rubber surface of the basketball court at the Chandler-Newberger Center needs repair, city officials say. That’s just one of a range of projects at the center, including air conditioning and drainage improvements, expected to cost a total of $620,000 over the next three years.

The city says Chandler, built in 1981, sees 60,000 user visits a year.

Church Street Boat Launch

City officials say the boat launch needs $530,000 in improvements next year including a concrete extension to the ramp and repairs to two piers so severely deteriorated that they’ve become hazardous.

They say the ramp sees more than 942 watercraft launches each summer season.

Ecology Center

Aldermen Peter Braithwaite, 2nd Ward, and Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, look over the Ecology Center greenhouse.

City officials say the small wood-framed greenhouse that adjoins a classroom building at the Ecology Center “is deteriorated and is in danger of failing.” It also doesn’t meet accessibility standards.

At least one alderman voiced doubts about whether the greenhouse project makes sense. Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, said she thought the city should “tear it down” instead.

The Evanston Environmental Association says the Ecology Center gets about 25,000 visits a year.

Fleetwood-Jourdain Center

The stands were crowded for a Saturday morning youth basketball game at the Fleetwood-Jourdain Center when tour participants stopped by.

The gymnasium floor at the Fleetwood-Jourdain Center, built in 1954, has been sanded so many times it’s gotten too thin to be sanded again and will have to be replaced by 2016, city officials say.

They also want to replace heating and air conditioning units that are more than 20 years old, add an emergency generator and convert the building’s small second floor into a library and computer lab space. The projects are expected to cost nearly $1.6 million.

The city says Fleetwood-Jourdain gets about 55,000 user visits a year.

Harley Clark mansion

City Engineer Homayoon Pirooz discusses a consultant’s report on repairs needed at the Harley Clark mansion.

The tour also stopped at the city-owned Harley Clark mansion on the lakefront. The mansion, constructed in 1927, has been owned by the city since the 1960s and leased to the Evanston Art Center since 1969.

The city is negotiating with the center about plans to correct various fire, electrical, bentilation and plumbing code deficiencies. But no long-range projections of capital needs for the property have been determined while future use of the building remains up in the air.

The City Council earlier this year turned down a proposal to sell the building so it could be restored and expanded for use as a boutique hotel. 

Lighthouse fog houses

A knotty-pine-paneled meeting room in one of the lighthouse fog houses.

The two garage-like buildings on the lakefront side of the Gross Point lighthouse are part of the lighthouse national landmark site.

City officials say they need about $900,000 in repairs to roofs and walls, new heating and cooling systems, renovated kitchen and washroom spaces and other work.

The city says people — mostly children participating in nature-oriented summer programs — make about 3,300 visits to the fog houses each year.

Noyes Cultural Arts Center

At the Noyes Center Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl, and aldermen Mark Tendam, Peter Braithwaite and Jane Grover tried out the newly-installed seats in Next Theatre’s auditorium.

The Noyes Cultural Arts Center is getting a new, largely grant-funded roof and the city recently installed new seats in the auditorium used by Next Theatre, but city officials say it needs a new central cooling system a new electric services and other improvements that will cost over $1.5 million by 2017.

City officials estimate people make over 100,000 visits to the Noyes Center each year.

Not counting projects for which cost estimates haven’t yet been developed, those projects total over $5 million in spending.

In a Google + interview this morning, I asked City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz how Evanston’s spending on recreation facilities compares with that in other communities.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Great! So let’s spend money on a distillery!

    Our city's infrastructure is deteriorating and needs repairs.  We need to address gang violence (and its causes).  So where are we spending City money?  On expanding a distillery and a holistic medicine storefront.  Priorities anyone?

  2. Crown

    The Robert Crown Center, with its crumbling walls and leaky roof, is noticably missing.

    Also, I have never been counted when entering a city building, so I am sure these estimates of visitors are very inacurate.  Lots of people go in the crown center without ever interacting with city staff.

  3. Robert Crown

    Where is Robert Crown on this list??  To say this building has been "minimally maintained" is generous.  So many Evanston families use the Center and the surrounding fields for hockey, skating, soccer, football and lacrosse.  Rather than fund another small business venture, I would like to see the City support Evanston families and the city's recreational facilities.


  4. Crown Center

    Let's see…..give $250,000 to help out a distillery, when they should be getting a bank loan, or putting $250,000 into upgrading the Crown Center……skewed priorities, anyone?

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