Main Street Improvements likely delayed until 2024, according to Ald. Jonathan Nieuwsma


Photo courtesy of Katherine Gotsick

The Main Street Improvement project, which includes streetscaping improvements, will most likely be delayed until 2024, according to Ald. Jonathan Nieuwsma (4th).

Cole Reynolds, Assistant City Editor

The second phase of Evanston’s Main Street Improvement Project will most likely start in 2024, according to Ald. Jonathan Nieuwsma (4th). The city had planned to break ground on the project this June.

The second phase of the project is set to focus on physical improvements to the pedestrian environment around Main Street. The changes include adding several sidewalk bump outs –– which will make parts of sidewalks wider –– raised crosswalks, tree plantings and new streetlights. Many of those improvements are designed to calm traffic on the street, which has seen Evanston’s fourth-highest number of crashes since 2016.

Bids for the construction of phase two closed April 25, and the city is expected to award the contract by May 22. Nieuwsma said delays in information processing at the Illinois Department of Transportation are postponing construction.

Because a few of the surrounding businesses have basements extending underneath the street, the project required additional paperwork before the city could break ground, Nieuwsma said. That extra paperwork, especially for an understaffed department like Illinois Department of Transportation, lengthens the review process, he said.

“IDOT is short-staffed, along with the City of Evanston and governments around the country,” Nieuwsma said. “(It is) an increased level of bureaucracy and a staffing shortage at the same time.” 

The project also includes a significant sidewalk resurfacing, intended to address Main Street’s bumpy paved sidewalks. The state of surrounding sidewalks has significant implications for the Park School, a public therapeutic day school program on Main Street. Staff at the school told The Daily the current sidewalks around the building restrict their ability to take students outside of the classroom to provide necessary real-world education.

The streetscape also provides difficulty for some parents of Park School students. In public comments for the project, Aimee King, a Park School parent, wrote that cars rush past while dropping kids off for school.

“This makes it feel less safe to open the car door and get our kids out,” King wrote.

Delays to the sidewalk replacements could also affect Tapestry Station development, Nieuwsma said. The five-story luxury apartment building is currently under construction and is expected to welcome tenants by early 2024. But, construction removed one of the old sidewalks bordering the development, leaving one side of the building without sidewalk access.

Nieuwsma said he wants to ensure residents have smooth sidewalks when the apartment building opens. He said discussions on how to do so haven’t yet begun.

“The building’s going to look nice, and it sucks that we’re going to have a crappy street and sidewalk out in front,” Nieuwsma said. “We’re going to have to rebuild the sidewalk there.”

The city completed the first phase of the improvement project in 2021, replacing the water main underneath Main Street.

That process, which took about three months, was disruptive to local businesses, Main-Dempster Mile Executive Director Katherine Gotsick said. Some businesses said it was difficult to navigate the foot traffic disruption brought by the construction, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Nieuwsma said he expects the second phase to be less disruptive to businesses. The newest delay could put another year in between construction projects.

“It turns out that it’s going to be another year, and, hey, give another year for the businesses to kind of reestablish themselves,” he said.

In the meantime, the prospect of a refurbished Main Street still excites Nieuwsma.

“With the new streets, new sidewalks, new lighting, it’s going to make Main Street one of several destination locations in Evanston,” he said.

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