Evanston City Council approved an outline for a complete renovation of Fountain Square as a special order of business on Sept. 15. The project will begin almost immediately with visioning workshops in October leading directly to design.
The City anticipates visioning and design to cost $300,000 and the entire construction project an additional $2.3 million.
Fountain Square has been the heart of downtown Evanston since 1854, according to a presentation made by Director of Public Works Suzette Robinson. The area was dedicated as “Fountain Square” in 1876, and became a war memorial in 1949. The current fountain was constructed during the 1976 bicentennial.
While the square has served as a public space for celebrations, including Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day remembrances, and the City Christmas tree during the holiday season, it has never been large enough or accessible enough for big crowds. Larger events always require the shutting down of sections of public roadways.
Visioning allows for the complete reinterpretation of the public square. Ideas mentioned have included the permanent closure of Sherman Avenue between Church and Davis streets, creating a large public pedestrian plaza. Orrington Avenue would be changed from one-way to two-way, should the Sherman stretch close.
Ms. Robinson said the City is considering making Orrington Avenue two-way on a trial basis, to test the effectiveness of a single two-way artery in the heart of downtown.
Alderman Coleen Burrus, 9th Ward, questioned the $2.3 million in expenditures, because of the appearance that the full amount would go toward the renovation of a relatively small Fountain Square area. “The perception that we’re going to spend $2.6 million for a very small Fountain Square area looks financially irresponsible for this Council,” she said. She suggested dividing the Sherman Avenue portion from the Fountain Square portion.
Prior to visioning and design, the $2.3 or $2.6 million seems “arbitrary,” said Ald. Burrus. After design, the scope and impact of the project will take shape.
Those interested in voicing ideas and concepts for the new Fountain Square-Sherman Avenue revamp should plan to attend the visioning activities, set to occur over a three-to-five- day period in October.