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West side Civic Center proposed

Some Evanston residents hope to persuade city officials to build a new Civic Center on the west side — possibly on the former Robinson bus property on the south side of Emerson Street west of Ashland Avenue.

Robinson

The Robinson property, looking north toward Emerson Street.

The residents plan to meet at 3 p.m. Thursday at the New Soul Cafe, 1601 Simpson St., to discuss the  idea.

An organizer of the group, Walter Kihm, says he's been talking to a lot of people about the concept.

"Everybody I've talked to in the west side community seems to be for it," Mr. Kihm said, "They all see it as a plus for the area and want to know what they can do to help bring it about."

The City Council has been trying to find a new location for the Civic Center since aldermen concluded over a year ago that the existing building, the former Marywood Academy, needed too much repair work to be economically maintained.

The aldermen reportedly have been considering sites downtown, including the Northwestern University-owned parking lot on University Place behind the Hilton Garden Inn and the library parking lot on Chicago Avenue between the Woman's Club of Evanston and the Woman's Christian Christian Temperance Union properties.

"Those sites are not going to be a good solution," Mr. Kihm said. "The downtown area is doing just fine and doesn't need more stimulus from investment of public funds," he added, "while building a new Civic Center on the west side would demonstrate the city's commitment to an area that has long been neglected."

Anna Renee Ross of 1810 Ashland Ave. said, "With all the talk of rehabbing the west side of Evanston, what better investment could the city make than to move its headquarters to the west side."

The irregularily shaped Robinson parcel includes a small shopping center, an abandoned gas station and bus parking and garage space fronting on Emerson that runs back along the former Mayfair rail right-of-way a full block south to Lyons Street.

It totals about 160,000 square feet. By comparison the existing Civic Center site, excluding the park behind it, totals about 287,000 square feet. The NU parking lot has about 50,000 square feet and the library parking lot about 32,000 square feet.

The Robinson site is just under a mile from the traditional center of downtown Evanston at Fountain Square. That's about 300 feet further than the existing Civic Center is from Fountain Square.

Mr. Kihm's development company, Cyrus Homes, is building the Church Street Village townhouse complex on the former Hines lumber yard property a block south of the Robinson site.

Leon Robinson, who owns the Emerson property suggested as a new Civic Center site, also owns property on the north side of Emerson that Cyrus Homes plans to combine with the Bishop Freeman factory site on Foster Street as part of a new residential development.

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