Evanston residents weigh lakefront billboards

Jia You

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Some Evanston residents said Tuesday they would not mind seeing billboards on their beaches, which could soon become a reality after City Council approved a set of guidelines for an advertising pilot project last week.

The initiative includes seeking vendors to advertise in high-traffic areas such as the lakefront and downtown to generate city revenue, said Davon Woodard, Evanston’s development officer.

“This really gives us an expansible list that we can have, and then sit down and say what fits for the City of Evanston,” he said.

The guidelines approved last Tuesday outline marketing partnerships with potential vendors. Possible advertising sites include everything from recycling and trash receptacles to information kiosks, lifeguard stand signage and downtown parking garages.

“What we’ve done in the proposals is to really ask potential vendors to come up with ideas of how we can integrate advertising into those areas without being obtrusive,” Woodard said.

Several companies have approached the city with proposals about advertising, but Woodard declined to give any names of companies.

Advertising proposals will be evaluated on their aesthetic quality, functional upkeep, financial impact on the city budget and qualifications of the vendors, Woodard confirmed.

“We’ll make a decision based on all the feedback from all the communities and see what really is in the best interest of the city,” he said.

Evanston resident Tom Mulhern, 45, said he supports the move from the streets to the sand in city advertising.

“They have to be inventive in this day and age about what we do to raise money,” said Mulhern, a consultant. “People don’t like their taxes raised, so we have to think of other ways.”

The amount of revenue the adverting could generate is still unclear, Ald. Delores Holmes (5th) said.

“I don’t know what it will do,” she added. “That’s what we voted on – ‘Let’s begin to look at it and see what it can generate.'”

Mulhern said he is concerned that the city might start to “look like a billboard.” Evanston resident Brian Johnson, 51, said he agrees with those opposed to lakefront and downtown advertising.

“We get enough from buses and trains right now,” he said, “I don’t want to see nothing on the lakefront.”