Updated cost estimates for the proposed new Robert Crown Community Center suggest the average Evanston homeowner could end up paying as much as $3,655 for the building in increased property taxes over the next quarter century.

In a memo to aldermen prepared for Monday’s City Council meeting, Assistant City Manager Erika Storlie says that the estimated cost of the project has increased from a range of between $40 million and $46 million projected last September to a new total of $48.5 million, based on final design documents and information gained in the process of requesting proposals from potential construction management firms.

The Friends of the Robert Crown Center has so far raised $11.1 million in cash and pledges to help fund the project, but only $2.4 million is in cash, with the remaining $8.7 million in pledges to be received between now and 2023.

Storlie says that given the current construction schedule for the project, the city and library need to issue $23.75 million of 25-year bonds this year and an additional $12.25 million in short-term bonds in 2019, which would require interest-only payments for the first five years..

Depending on how much is ultimately received in private support, the remaining short-term bonds would later be refinanced as long-term bonds. In additition to the money raised so far, the Friends group is hoping to raise an additional $3.9 million by the time the fundraising effort is completed.

Storlie says the first bond issue would increase property taxes by about $25 per $100,000 of property value, with the second bond issue adding another $16.

With the median Evanston owner-occupied home valued at $356,600, that means that the owner of that home could end up paying $3,655 for the Crown project over the next quarter century, assuming the short-term bonds have to be fully refinanced as a 20-year bond issue.

The amount could be somewhat less if the private fundraising is more successful, more if project costs continue to rise.

The memo asks aldermen to “provide directions on next steps” for the Crown Center project.

Related stories

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Here is an idea government never [wants to] think about
    Raise all the funds from private donors BEFORE you build or even contract.
    No bonds, no interest, no failure to payoff bonds, no taxpayer debt or calls for new taxes for overruns or poor planning.
    You also see how much taxpayers really value the project instead of how high an interest rate you need to pay bond holders.

  2. The New Robert Crown Center

    Hello Bill and Evanston Now readers!

    While we appreciate your coverage of the proposed new Robert Crown Community Center, your Feb. 17 article, “Your Tab for Crown Could Reach $3,655,” was quite misleading.  The Friends of the Robert Crown Center (FRCC) calculates the tax burden on our fellow Evanstonians at $146 per year or $12 per month—or $3,655 for 25 years. To put this in context, if you go to Starbucks, Backlot or Peet’s every day, you will spend over $1,000 per year or $25,000 for 25 years. This project is a sorely needed investment in our community. It will fill hotel rooms and restaurants, support local businesses and most importantly serve the needs of our whole community, especially our children. The current center has been loved to death and our needs have changed.

    The new Robert Crown Center design has engaged the most collaborative public process imaginable, and FRCC has raised over $11 million before the design is final. The community understands we need this asset for the city and that it will contribute to the well-being of residents for the next 50+ years.

    The residents of Evanston will get a positive ROI on this investment in our future.

    The new center is a bold, big project that will not only continue the great mission of the current Robert Crown Center—including  free and reduced lunches in the summer, pre-school, and the annual Nutcracker on Ice—but will also enable the city to add new programming that the community needs and accommodate the 200,000+ visits the new Robert Crown Center will receive per year.

    We are on track to achieve our reach goal of $15 million, and every dollar we raise will reduce the burden on the community. We take this role very seriously and will continue to raise funds for this very important project.

    Daniel Stein
    President Friends of the Robert Crown Center

    1. Not misleading

      Hi Daniel,

      Your claim that the story is misleading is absolutely false, and you prove the falsity of your claim in your own comment.

      The Crown Center may turn out to be a great value for the money — but it does have a cost to the taxpayers, which is not insignificant.

      — Bill

    2. Pledges do not equate to dollars in hand

      What is misleading is the portrayal of pledges as actual dollars in hand. Pledges for future donations never equate, always yielding less than expected. How can organizers of any financially sound undertaking assume otherwise? This shortfall too will fall on taxpayers later. 

    3. Which business will profit ?
      You say “It will fill hotel rooms and restaurants, support local businesses…”
      How ? Will people come from out of town and rent hotel rooms to go to Crown ? Are out-of-townees even allowed to use it ?
      Which restaurants [X miles away] will profit ? Do children rush from Crown to restaurants now ?
      What business will profit ? Are there any sporting goods stores in Evanston now that sell supplies ? Any bid to open after Crown opens ?

      1. businesses????
        There is Play It Again Sports at Dempster Plaza. No, nobody rushes to restaurants…and your’e correct in stating that why would people come in to town and rent hotel rooms? Businesses will not profit from the new Crown center……and if there is going to be a bigger, better concession withing the building, then that would be what kids use for eating while there. Somebody is daydreaming. There will still be all the programs that people can’t afford…how many scholarships are going to get given out…at 50% of the pricing? More staff will be needed…office and custodial…..and there will be a lot of hidden costs to run the place. Wait and see……

    4. Give this guy an award for

      Give this guy an award for most ridiculous comment on this website this year.

      Claims the article misleading before proves it’s accurate, then follows it up with elitist condescension and absurd unsupported assertions.

      With friends like these!

    5. LOLZ
      Be very afraid of anyone who sells a multi-million dollar project (and/or bond issuance) by making it a simple as a payment plan.

      “$3655 for an average $365,600 house… Why that’s just 40 cents a day…for the next 25 years! Who can’t afford that!? If you drink coffee, you’re spending more than that on your selfish habit!! Folks, you can’t afford NOT to approve my pet (pork) project!!!”

  3. You are assuming every
    You are assuming every property owners goes to Starbucks everyday, well you are delusional. We the low income people cant really afford a trip to Starbucks everyday.
    Please don’t assume everyone has the means to pay for overpriced coffe. Just think about this, if i dont have money to make daily trips to get coffe from starbucks…do you think i have 3k laying around on my house?

    1. Agree, can’t afford my
      Agree, can’t afford my current property taxes. We don’t eat out or ever buy coffee, we can’t afford it. The assumption that we can afford it buy cutting back on coffee trips really is offensive.

  4. Appreciate F of RCC’s fundraising efforts, still a taxpayer cost
    I don’t personally have a strong opinion one way or the other about the new Robert Crown Center (except that I’m against adding yet another library branch). Having said that, it seems like it will provide the community with some really amazing facilities and I appreciate the fact that unlike seemingly every other Evanston project, this one does have a significant amount of private funding and that Daniel and the Friends of the Robert Crown Center have made a lot of effort to reduce the burden on the taxpayer.

    Now, having said that, that certainly doesn’t mean it’s nothing and the taxpayer will have to contribute funds so it’s something that should have been (and hopefully was) evaluated carefully. But it does seem like this project has a potential for better ROI and contribution to the community than many other projects and it’s largely due to the scale of efforts to secure private funding. So thank you! I’m looking forward to the opening with cautious optimism. But I expect the costs will certainly be more than expected, and our (tax) costs in Evanston are obviously getting a bit ridiculous. So, I’m taking a more nuanced position and I hope my family will get to benefit and enjoy the place in the coming years.

  5. City of Evanston and Library Pledges
    The city has pledged to issue $10 million in bonds to help build the new facility, and the Library Board has pledged $2.5 million to include a 5,000 square foot library branch in the building.

    When did it goto 36 million total?

    1. total costs?
      I think you meant $46 million……or more. Years ago, I believe, it started out as $30 million…and it’s ballooned. Can’t see the need for a library in a rec center/skating rink. Someone needs to keep it from emptying out everyone’s wallets…..before it hits $50 million: it’s getting close. I would imagine that there will be a huge increase of custodial services for a facility that large…and to keep it REALLY looking fabulous. Maybe outsource a service for that?
      Too many issues keep coming up, with no real answers…and it doesn’t even seem like ice skating is a huge attraction anymore for families.

      1. Crown facility is MORE than ice skating
        The costs of the new Robert Crown facility need to be scrutinized; every dollar counts.
        And raising taxes, impacts all residents including homeowners and renters.
        An extra $12 per month is especially challenging to pay for households from lower and middle income families.

        But people need to keep in mind that there are a very wide array of services and opportunities with the new Robert Crown facility.
        It’s not just about ice skating; there’s a full size gym, an indoor walking/jogging track that everyone can enjoy during the cold & rainy days
        in Evanston.

        While the new branch library receives a lot of negative press and comments, people need to realize that this library branch will provide high speed
        computer access to residents. High speed internet access is critical in the 21st century economy and there will also be space available for tutoring and mentoring our youth who need additional help and support.

        The new Robert Crown will also have space for a preschool/day care and as District 65 has reported, having access to early childhood education is critically important for “Kindergarten Readiness.” Kids who enter D65 who are ready for kindergarten are more likely to be reading at grade level by 3rd grade and more and more studies suggest that if kids are on track by 3rd grade, they will be more successful in later grades. However, if they’re doing poorly in 3rd grade then this suggests future challenges in the classroom and that leads to other problems. I’m willing to invest money today to help all kids realize their potential and PREVENT future problems instead of waiting for problems to occur and then try to fix them after the fact.

        The outdoor turf fields will be utilized by many different organizations including football, baseball, soccer, field hockey, softball, lacrosse and i’m sure i’ve left out a couple of other sports.

        Evanston needs a facility like the proposed “New Robert Crown.”
        Yes, it is expensive, but let’s do it right, and let the entire community utilize the facility and become a gathering spot for everyone to enjoy.

        1. No Tax Increase

          Kindergarten readiness use to be the job of the parents. What happened to Evanston parents. Evanston teachers have smaller than average classes. We don’t need a branch library at Robert Crown. We have a fine library downtown. In fact, they can close the other 2 branches and save some taxpayer dollars or use it to add to the existing library. There are many other towns in the area with larger footprints than Evanston that have just one main library. It appears Evanston has a spend-alcoholic board that can’t stop finding reasons to spend more money. With all the things you would like to see at a new Robert Crown, the thing will end up costing 60M, not including the greatly enlarged staff to run it

          1. Area between libraries
            Draw circles on a map centering it on each library [new and proposed] and extending to each of the other libraries.
            Note the overlap on the south [Crown and Twig] with each other and Main. See how the North Branch is significantly isolated from the others.
            If the city is really interested in development of the SW side and people not being able to get to the Main Library [bike, car, foot], they might be better off getting the CTA buses back to routes they had 30(?) years ago—esp. going to Main and McCormick [I think Emerson to Dodge or a NS street further west].

          2. Spend-A-Holics Anonymous Needed
            Can anyone offer a 12 (or more) step program to help cure the council people and city hall people? I agree with you…close the branches, and put that money into high-tech……Skokie, Wilmette, etc. must be laughing at all of this. They and other suburbs have only one library. Maybe their upper management has more control over their employees and spending tactics. Sure seems that way.

  6. Let’s ask President Trump
    Pssst, Here’s a Secret: Trump Rebuilds Ice Rink. NYT 1986
    Donald J. Trump refurbished the Central Park -skating rink two and a half months ahead of his own speedy six-month schedule and $750,000 below his own projected $3 million budget, having taken over the project after the city spent six years and $12 million unsuccessfully trying to get the job done.
    Is OK to refer to him as President? This is Evanston by the way.

Leave a comment
The goal of our comment policy is to make the comments section a vibrant yet civil space. Treat each other with respect — even the people you disagree with. Whenever possible, provide links to credible documentary evidence to back up your factual claims.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *