City begins process of narrowing down designs for Fountain Square renovation


Julia Jacobs/Daily Senior Staffer

Stephanie Levine from Evanston public works talks a group of community members through the four designs the city is proposing for the Fountain Square Plaza renovation. About 20 residents gathered Tuesday night to provide input on the designs.

Julia Jacobs, Summer Editor

Evanston community members gathered Tuesday night to provide input on several proposed features for the upcoming Fountain Square Plaza redesign, including an ice skating rink and a veteran’s memorial.

About 20 residents who attended the meeting in the Civic Center at the invitation of Ald. Judy Fiske (1st) and Ald. Donald Wilson (4th) were asked to weigh the pros and cons of four distinct designs with attention to potential cost and impact on parking. The four plans range in cost from about $2.1 million to about $5.5 million, with one eliminating about 45 parking spaces and another leaving parking untouched.

Two of the designs focus on reducing traffic congestion and increasing foot traffic in the plaza, which includes Sherman Avenue between Church and Davis streets as well as the surrounding landscape areas. Fiske, who owns a local pet supply store, said business owners tend to prefer packed sidewalks around their stores rather than busy streets.

“One of the things we’re trying to do is increase the pedestrian experience,” Fiske said in the meeting.

The most expensive plan, which was designed with pedestrians in mind, would resurface the entire roadway so the street measures level with the sidewalk, said Suzette Robinson, the director of public works. Another plan, which would cost about $4.9 million, would eliminate all parking on Sherman Avenue between Church and Davis streets to expand the sidewalks.

The plan focused on improving sustainability features and included a kiosk with a wind turbine and Wi-Fi access as well as a drainage system that captures rainwater. Designs also propose a permanent holiday tree, adaptive outdoor seating, and a restroom and concessions building.

Robinson said once the designs are narrowed down from four to two, there will be another series of meetings to determine which specific features have community support. After the initial stage of feedback from residents, it is clear that the most important feature to the community is maintaining the historical fountain, she said.

Diane Keely, a 72-year-old Evanston resident who attended the meeting, said none of the fountain designs included in the four proposals held up the standard for the city landmark.

“This is a historical part of Evanston, and to me other than (one design) they’re not really enveloping one of the major concepts that’s traditional to Evanston over the years,” Keely said.

The city began seeking input for the renovation in October with open suggestion boxes for ideas and designs.

As the city enters the next stage of the project, Wilson encouraged residents to reach out to him directly with ideas for the plaza renovation, emphasizing his desire to make the square a place for community members to relax and interact.

“What I’m looking to get now is input from you guys,” Wilson said. “Now that we’ve gotten to this point, the people who care a lot about this are going to come out to these meetings and help us out.”

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