Aldermen vote to raise debt limit to help fund Robert Crown renovations


Daily file photo by Colin Boyle

Ald. Donald Wilson (4th) at a city meeting. Wilson and other aldermen voted on Monday to increase the city’s debt limit to help fund renovations to the Robert Crown Community Center.

Kristina Karisch, Summer Web Editor

Aldermen voted Monday to raise the city’s debt limit in order to help fund the renovation of the Robert Crown Community Center in west Evanston.

The new debt limit will be raised to $150 million in order to accommodate the issuance of general obligation bonds to fund the project, aldermen unanimously decided on Monday. Renovations to Robert Crown have been in the works for years now, and the project has gone through various phases of development.

The new community center is set to feature two ice rinks, turf fields, a childcare center and a library, among other facilities available to residents. Since the project was first proposed, with a price tag of roughly $30 million, costs have steadily increased as more features are added to the plans.

Assistant city manager Erika Storlie estimated the total cost for the project at $53 million. She said in May that construction is still scheduled to begin this summer and the initial opening set for fall 2019.

Some aldermen expressed their concern about the steep costs of the bonds, considering Evanston is facing an expected $3 to 5 million deficit in its Fiscal Year 2019 budget. Overall, aldermen agreed on the need for the renovations, and praised the community involvement in raising funds to cover part of the project costs.

Pete Giangreco, a representative of Friends of the Robert Crown Center, a group dedicated to raising funds for the project, said members have raised over $10 million and will continue to fundraise until they collect $15 million.

“We should be about solutions here,” Giangreco said at Monday’s meeting. “What we’re trying to do here is trying to do here is to do this together, and to do this right.”

Ald. Donald Wilson (4th) said that at the outset, the project’s heavy reliance on community contribution and fundraising made it “a leap of faith” for members of council.

Now, with the fundraising covering “roughly 20 percent” of the costs and a dedicated maintenance fund in place, Wilson said he is confident in the business model in place for the project.

“It protects the commitment of the donors,” Wilson said. “(This model is) designed to protect the asset and lessen the burden in a long-term basis.”

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