Robert Crown Community Center nears completion


Daily file photo by Julia Esparza

The Robert Crown Center at 1701 Main St. The new center is slated to open near the end of February.

Jacob Fulton, Assistant City Editor

After breaking ground nearly 18 months ago, the Robert Crown Community Center is nearing completion.

Introduced in January 2017, the project was intended to renovate the original center due to high maintenance costs and deteriorating facilities. The city initially budgeted the plan at $17 million, but later adapted the project to include plans for two fully functioning ice rinks, a new library branch and a number of baseball fields.

However, in the years since, the project’s costs have ballooned, increasing from a later projection of $30 million to a final price tag of over $53 million. A nonprofit organization called Friends of the Robert Crown Center pledged a portion of the funding, but Evanston residents have expressed concerns about the increase, saying they don’t want to pay more in taxes because of the price change.

Despite fiscal controversies, the city has almost finished construction on the center, with both ice rinks already open for public use. The building housing public meeting spaces, athletic facilities and an Evanston Public Library branch is slated to open near the end of February. Once the new facilities open, John Devaney, the project manager for the center, said the old building will be demolished to make way for soccer fields and a new parking lot.

“After we get through next spring, we’ll have these wonderful fields and scoreboards, and the tennis courts are probably under 10 years old and we’ll have this wonderful new building,” Devaney said. “There’s just so much the center will offer for the community.”

Devaney said the new buildings are a much-needed update from the previous location, with expanded technology in library facilities and more seating in both rinks.

Library board president Shawn Iles said he doesn’t foresee a hard opening for the center; instead, the library will host multiple events to appeal to the community.

“The branch won’t have one sort of grand opening, because there’s multiple constituencies the staff is working for,” Iles said. “There’s a number of different events — they’ll have something that’s aimed at young children, something that’s aimed at our Spanish-speaking population and something that’s aimed at adults.”

Though the center has faced financial issues and delays in construction, Devaney said he is excited to see the impact the completed project will have on the city.

Miguel Ruiz, the supervising librarian for the Robert Crown branch, said he hoped the new facilities would create a central space for residents of southwest Evanston to gather and build community.

“We’re trying to connect with community organizations and community members to see how they envision themselves in this space and what we can do to continue to cultivate a welcoming environment,” Ruiz said. “We’re absolutely and continuously committed to meeting the diverse expectations and needs of Evanston residents.”

This story has been updated to clarify that the original plan for the center involved an internal renovation, but later changed to a complete replacement of the center.

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Twitter: @jacobnfulton1

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