Following delays, Fountain Square construction to be scaled back for winter


Kate Salvidio/Daily Senior Staffer

Fountain Square, Downtown Evanston. The Fountain Square project is scheduled to be completed in spring 2018 after a winter hiatus.

Andrea Michelson, Reporter

The Fountain Square project –– scheduled to be completed in May 2018 after delays due to weather and coordination issues –– will focus on pedestrian access and safety in anticipation of winter.

Lara Biggs, chief of the city’s Engineering and Capital Planning bureau, said the goal is to finish paving, clear the sidewalks and contain construction to the north plaza before winter arrives.

“The team has been working pretty furiously to get the traffic signals and paving done,” Biggs said. “Unfortunately, and this is always the problem with construction that is scheduled to go right up through the end of construction season, the weather starts to get a little bit more unpredictable in October and November.”

The recent rain caused delays in renovations of the south plaza, Biggs said. She said work on the south plaza, as well as paving, is expected to finish in mid-November.

More significant delays in the north plaza have stemmed from coordination issues related to the contracting process, Biggs said. The construction team has poured the base of the memorial wall on the north side of the plaza, but more work remains to be done when construction resumes in the spring, she said.

Ald. Donald Wilson (4th) said he is disappointed with the contractor’s pace. Wilson said he expected the project to be finished in time for the winter holidays, and he has received feedback that reflects “varying degrees of frustration and aggravation” from business owners and Evanston residents.

“I understand and I respect that people are frustrated,” Wilson said. “This isn’t what they bargained for, and this isn’t what I bargained for.”

For businesses close to Fountain Square, slow construction means slow business, Wilson said.

Jose Hernandez, assistant manager of Freshii’s Evanston location, 1596 Sherman Ave., said he noticed a negative impact on the restaurant a couple months ago.

Hernandez said customers have trouble finding a place to park amid the construction. Parking has also been an issue for drivers picking up delivery orders, he said.

Despite having received some complaints, Biggs said the Evanston community has been mostly supportive of the project.

“There’s been a clear attitude that ‘Wow, this construction has been really disruptive, but we cannot wait to see the new plaza,’” Biggs said. “You can see now there’s trees and the lights are in place and the brickwork is almost complete. With each step we’ve taken, we’ve gotten such good positive feedback.”

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