City Council hears update on Robert Crown renovations

Nora Shelly, Reporter

City officials will move forward with the campaign to overhaul facilities at the Robert Crown Community Center after receiving favorable results from a public survey.

Evanston hired an independent agency, Community Counseling Service Co., to gauge public opinion of the planned community center, which will host expanded ice rinks and athletic facilities, multi-purpose rooms and a new library branch with a reading courtyard in either a new or renovated building. The building is located at 1701 Main St.

The survey found there was widespread support for the renovations among Evanston residents.

“It’s something we owe to the community — to have an appropriate facility,” said Ald. Donald Wilson (4th), who participated in the survey. “Wonderful things happen there.”

According to the report, the campaign could expect to raise $3 million to $5 million in small donations, and assistant city manager Marty Lyons said the rest of the funds would come from potential large donations and selling naming rights for items like the new ice rink.

“When you put those all together our goal is to get to $18 or $20 million dollars and to then match that with the city’s bonding money, they’ve committed to fund a $30 million new Robert Crown,” Lyons said.

Lyons said they plan to start fundraising immediately, although major decisions about the project have yet to be made, including whether they will form an independent charity or make use of an existing organization to lead the campaign.

Lyons listed the Evanston Parks Foundation and Evanston Public Library Friends as possible candidates to handle the campaign, but said city officials will handle the fundraising until an official decision is made.

The survey listed the library addition, gym and ice rinks as the highest priorities for the respondents. The library, which would be EPL’s fourth branch, will serve “a need and desire” for a library on the city’s west side, Lyons said.

Michael Tannen, the president of the EPL Board of Trustees, said the branch will focus on promoting 21st century literacy and has support among residents in the wards surrounding Robert Crown.

“The Evanston Public Library wants to be, and is eager to be, partners with the city in seeing that Robert Crown gets off the ground and spades get in the ground as soon as possible,” Tannen said during the meeting.

A few who spoke at the council meeting expressed concern the project would interrupt activities at the center, but recognized the need for the renovations.

“I can tell you something that you already know … we desperately need a new hockey rink,” said Matthew Devine, president of the Evanston Youth Hockey Association.

Devine asked the council to try to keep some ice available for their use during the renovations.

“During the time of this construction … we still have a hockey program,” Devine said. “We still need to serve our clients and our kids and we still need ice.”

Many officials said they plan to build a new center rather than renovate the old one, but it may depend on how much money is raised.

“This is the project that we need to double down on,” Ald. Mark Tendam (6th) said. “It’s going to be a very targeted fundraising project.”

The fundraising will begin soon and will last anywhere from 12 months to 24 months. As for a groundbreaking date, Lyons said that is still up in the air.

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