Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern


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Civic Center Preservation Issue To Appear On Consolidated Ballot

By Megan CrepeauThe Daily Northwestern

The grassroots organization Friends of the Civic Center wants city government to stay where it is.

Friends of the Civic Center representatives said the group collected 2,138 signatures – 300 more than it needed – on its petition to include a question about preserving the Civic Center on an April ballot.

Now that the group has cleared the first hurdle to achieving its goal, it plans to step up its efforts to keep the Evanston government from moving to a different building.

The petition will put the following question on the April 17 consolidated election ballot: “Shall the City of Evanston municipal government rehabilitate and continue to reside in the Civic Center located at 2100 Ridge?”

The organization’s representatives said they are waiting to see if anyone challenges the signatures they have turned in. Feb. 13 is the deadline for making complaints to the city concerning the validity of the petition.

The group started collecting signatures for the petition in December.

The City Council voted in January 2005 to move out of the Civic Center, after deeming it unfit for city government.

The building, constructed in 1909, needs to revamp some of its utilities, including its heating system. Meanwhile the roof is falling apart and scaffolding has been constructed over the sidewalk to protect pedestrians from falling slate.

The group formed shortly after the council decided to relocate. Its goal is to “develop practical and affordable alternatives to retain the Civic Center as the seat of government in Evanston,” according to its Web site.

“The fundamental thing behind what we want to do is save the building,” said group founding member John Kennedy.

Now that its question is on the ballot, the organization is prepared to take its efforts to the next level, Kennedy said.

“We really need to mount a campaign to educate Evanston residents,” he said, mentioning that yard signs, flyers, meetings and letters to local newspapers might be on the group’s agenda.

Debate on the subject has been going on for two years. When the council voted to leave the Civic Center, it said a new building could be funded by the property taxes and proceeds from the sale of the current Civic Center.

The city’s real estate expert at the time estimated that the current property could sell for $20 million, adding that the cost of modernizing the building would be too much for the city to handle.

Kennedy and the group disagree with that conclusion. They said the $20 million estimate is outdated and that in today’s real estate climate, selling the building would not generate enough profits to pay for new offices.

Instead, the group advocates a long-term plan for renovation and “creative alternatives” for funding the revamp.

“The city ought to stay where it is,” Kennedy said. “We don’t believe economically (that the city can) do it for $20 million.”

The group also asked the council to grant the center landmark status, a request the council tabled but could revisit. Granting the center landmark status would bring in tax credits for the city.

There are sentimental reasons for keeping the Civic Center as well, preservationists said.

“Evanston is a town that cherishes its past and believes in preserving those architectural buildings that remind us of our history,” the group said in a 2005 press statement.

The city is trying to keep an open mind, said Max Rubin, Evanston’s facilities management director.

“We’re looking at all options regarding the Civic Center,” he said. “We’ve never disregarded all options.”

Reach Megan Crepeau at [email protected].

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Civic Center Preservation Issue To Appear On Consolidated Ballot