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At a special meeting on June 29, the City’s Playground and Recreation Board unanimously decided to recommend to the City Council and the City Manager that no recreation center in Evanston be closed, sold or re-purposed. The meeting was called to address the proposed sale of the Chandler-Newberger Center and make a recommendation before the topic is discussed at the July 11 City Council meeting.
Several residents attended the meeting to voice their support for the center.
In addition, representatives of the ad-hoc group, “Families for Chandler-Newberger,” provided information to the board members showing that it draws participants from all nine wards, not just from the Seventh Ward, where it sits. By percentages, the lowest amount of participation comes from the adjacent First Ward. It has been suggested that the large number of Northwestern University students there might account for the low participation.
Board members said they appreciated the residents’ support not just for Chandler but for all of Evanston’s recreation centers.
William Logan, who chairs the board, said, “Thank you for your comments about Chandler-Newberger’s being not just about the north end but about the community. I have two grandsons who live in the Fifth Ward; I’ve been to Chandler several times.”
Amina DiMarco said she had looked at the strategic plan since City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz had said that Chandler was the center “least connected” to the plan. She said she felt a case could be made that “the use of Chandler fits in with the strategic plan.”
Randall Mayne said, “It’s like preaching to the choir. … Recreation centers are central to the fabric of the community. It’s become clear that every center is important.”
Marcus Casady noted that Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl had asked for additional recreation space for Evanston youth for the summer.
Doug Gaynor, superintendent of Parks, Recreation and Community Service for the City said Chandler’s support and importance are “not just from the north end. It’s a community center and it’s for the entire Evanston community.”
Board member Larry Raffel said, “The clear thing is that recreation centers and open space are important.” He offered to draft the letter to the City Manager and the City Council, stating that the Playground and Recreation Board is opposed to the “closing, sale or adaptive re-use” of any parks, open space or community centers.
For Sale or Not
Although the City Manager has said the Chandler-Newberger property is “not for sale,” he has confirmed that the City is considering a “higher and better use” than a recreation center for the property, located between Central and Lincoln streets near the CTA tracks. Rumors continue that the site has been the topic of conversation between the City and Evanston Hospital of NorthShore University HealthSystem. Concern has also been raised about the future of the nearby American Legion Post 42.
Folded in with the concerns about the future of Chandler-Newberger are those about the future of the Frank Govern golf course. The golf course lies on land owned by the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, leased to the City until about 2032 and subleased annually to the golf course association. The association is in arrears on its water bill to the City, and City officials acknowledge they have spoken to Northwestern University about its potential use of the land.
Part of the July 11 Administration and Public Works Committee meeting will be devoted to the discussion of community centers.