City to build new Robert Crown Community Center rather than renovate


Daily file photo by Julia Jacobs

Assistant City Manager Marty Lyons speaks at a city meeting. The city plans to replace Robert Crown Community Center with a new building, adding ice rinks and a library.

Kristina Karisch, Assistant City Editor

The city is planning to build a new facility to replace the Robert Crown Community Center in south Evanston, a city official told The Daily on Monday.

This decision comes after years of discussion as to whether to renovate or entirely replace Robert Crown. The new building is planned to be built on a portion of the same lot but closer to Dodge Avenue, which will allow programming to continue in the existing building while construction is underway.

Plans for the new building include increasing the number of ice rinks from one full-sized rink and a half-sized rink to two full-sized rinks, assistant city manager Marty Lyons said.

The new building will also include expanded athletic facilities, multi-purpose rooms, turf fields and a new library branch with a reading courtyard inside. The city plans to partner with the Evanston Public Library for the library portion of the new building, Lyons said.

Discussions about the future of Robert Crown have been going on since 2014, at which point it was still unclear whether the building would be refurbished or replaced completely. A fundraising campaign was launched last January after the city hired a fundraising consultant to gauge community interest in the project.

During Monday’s City Council meeting, the city authorized a contract with Chicago-based architecture firm Woodhouse Tinucci Architects for the first stage of planning, which will be covered by a fee of almost $500,000.

Brian Foote, an architect at Woodhouse Tinucci, said they had no concrete plans yet, but he expects the first planning meeting with the city will happen later this week. Over the next couple of weeks, the firm and city will put together a schedule and set target deadlines to draft the plans, he said.

In the first stage of planning, the firm will mainly come up with concept designs and investigate the space and needs, he said.

The project as a whole is supposed to cost an estimated $17 million, of which $5.2 million have been raised, Lyons said. He added that the city is planning to raise the rest through donations, which he expects will be complete by the end of this year.

Daniel Stein, the president of Friends of Robert Crown Center, a citizen group committed to fundraising for the projects, expressed optimism at the state of fundraising at the meeting on Monday.

“Fundraising is going quite well these days,” he said at the meeting. “The next step is (to) … get renderings so we can continue on the fundraising … and keep the project moving.”

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