Evanston City Council to vote on Penny Park redesign plans

Stephanie Kelly, Assistant City Editor

City Council will vote Monday on the contractor for the Penny Park redesign, which has been delayed since its original renovation plans in the spring.

Leathers & Associates, which initially designed the park, will oversee the future playground design and construction administration if the motion passes, according to a memo to council members. The proposed contract with Leathers & Associates comes to a total cost of $38,707.

Leathers & Associates, a firm that creates custom-designed playgrounds, first designed Penny Park in 1991, the memo said. Evanston residents helped make the playground, located at the intersection of Lake Street and Ashland Avenue and constructed entirely of pressure-treated lumber, through donations and volunteering, it said. According to a website called Preserve Penny Park, children collected their pennies to finance the park’s construction.

The park’s equipment is 23 years old and, because of its age, there are concerns about the deterioration of the park’s infrastructure, the memo to aldermen said. In addition, it said the current park does not abide by safety standards and Americans with Disabilities Act requirements.

When it was first built, Penny Park designs were based on community feedback. Leathers & Associates will include community suggestions again for the new designs if the council votes positively on the contract. The first meeting to assess the community’s response was in March.

Ald. Peter Braithwaite (2nd) told The Daily last March that renovations were scheduled for this fall. However, in the memo outlining the contract proposal, the final design for the playground is planned for January 2015 and construction is planned for August 2015. Two community meetings for the project are scheduled in February and May before construction begins.

Nonetheless, some community members have said on the website Preserve Penny Park that the city has not provided any evidence that proves the depreciation of the park’s wood or proves the park does not follow safety or ADA standards. The group organized itself in order to voice opposition against the complete demolition of the park.

“We believe it is irresponsible and disingenuous for the City to repeatedly blithely assert the playground equipment is failing … when the City’s claims about the failing play equipment are apparently based on nothing more than what some posts look like below ground to the naked eye,” the website said.

If the motion passes Monday, Leathers will provide consultation during the park’s construction in addition to making the design drawings.

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