Council debates redevelopment plan, art

Julianna Nunez

The Evanston city council debated passing three ordinances Monday concerning the redevelopment of the designated Dempster/Dodge area.

One ordinance addressed a tax increment redevelopment project area for the Dempster/Dodge redevelopment area.

Earlier in the meeting, Bea Rashid, the director of Dance Center Evanston, spoke in favor of making the Dempter/Dodge shopping center a TIF District.

“We need energy in the West Village,” she said. Rashid said she believes the redevelopment of the Dempster/Dodge shopping center will revitalize and bring more businesses to the area.

Ald. Donald Wilson (4th) said he still had reservations regarding development when it came time to discuss the ordinances concerning the edevelopment.

“I want the shopping center to succeed, but it’s not so much a question of opposing the TIF (Tax Increment Financing District) and opposing something happening at the shopping center, but it’s a disappointment this is not a specific plan,” he said. “To me, it’s not a redevelopment plan and to me, what it amounts to is basically a cash stream for a private property owner.”

Wilson said the TIF District did not give any control to the Evanston residents and that the plan specified what he considers maintenance work, which should remain the responsibility of the landlord. In order to be considered a redevelopment, he said, he wanted the nature of the property to change and the neighborhood to improve.

“I don’t want to paint it,” he said. “I don’t want to make it look a little bit prettier, I don’t want to put more flowers in front of it. I want real change effectuated in the neighborhood. “

Tendam also objected to the redevelopment.

“What I don’t see is an excited partner in this. The owner of this property will obviously make some changes but I haven’t seen anything that would take it beyond the necessary changes to keep this as a viable shopping center, to make it more of a vision of the neighborhood, of a vision of Leadership Evanston came up with.”

All of the ordinances concerning the redevelopment plan passed 6-2.

Another ordinance asked for the approval of a $75,000 commission for a new piece of public art, titled Search & Effect by the artist team Krivanek + Breaux. The work would be placed in Sherman Plaza.

Ald. Judy Fiske (1st) said she wanted to remove the public art ordinance from the agenda because she intended to vote against it. Fiske said she was concerned about the use of money alloted for the new art piece, which came from the savings of another public art piece’s installation. She also said she thought the new piece was not the artists’ best work.

Fiske recommended the artists create a sculpture for the Church Street Plaza instead, because a sculpture in this location would provide a better public art piece than what is proposed in the ordinance.

“I’m concerned that what is being proposed now is going to be only visible to a very small number of people at a very limited time of the day, and is actually not going to provide the kind of benefit that we are looking for in our public art installations,” she said.

However, Ald. Mark Tendam (6th) said he supports the new art piece.

“I think it is anything but filler,” he said. “This project, I think, although it was designed for a specific area, is beautifully designed and draws in a lot of things that other types of public art cannot do.”

Tendam argued that the new piece would be visible at Sherman Plaza, and the nature of the piece will allow for interaction from onlookers.

Like Tendam, Ald. Ann Rainey (8th) said she appreciated the piece but agreed with Ald. Fiske on the cost.

“I’m going to support this 100 percent,” she said. “But going forward, if a public art committee saves some money or doesn’t spend all the money, then I see no reason to scare up some art and spend money on it. Put it back in the public art fund and we can do more work someplace else.”

The motion passed 7-1.

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