The City of Evanston is seeking input from community members on ways to renovate and improve Fountain Square, which includes Veterans’ Plaza, Sherman Avenue between Church and Davis streets and adjacent landscape areas. The updated plaza will still have a fountain centerpiece and serve as a veterans’ memorial; however, community members are invited to share input on additional amenities and activities they would like to see accommodated in the area.
One suggestion is to convert Sherman Avenue between Church and Davis into a pedestrian area and incorporate that into the mix. To give residents a taste of this idea, Sherman Avenue will be closed to all vehicular traffic between Church and Davis streets Oct. 25-27, when the City’s Halloween and harvest events will transform Fountain Square into a large creative playscape for residents to enjoy while envisioning the plaza’s renovation potential.
To get involved, community members are encouraged to
• Follow @CityofEvanston on Instagram, tag the City in the photo and use #MyFountainSquare to share visual ideas.
• Leave a message at one of the brightly colored mailboxes located around Fountain Square in downtown Evanston.
• Visit one of the participating businesses to leave a visioning tip in the tip jar. To help community members identify which businesses are participating, signs will be posted in their storefront windows.
• Get the kids involved by having them color pages that will be available at the Main Library, 1703 Orrington Ave., and Evanston History Center, 225 Greenwood St. The pages can also be downloaded at cityofevanston.org/myfountainsquare. When completed, the coloring pages can be submitted at Fountain Square Oct. 25-27.
The deadline to submit all comments and suggestions is Nov. 21. Comments will be used to develop four conceptual visions of Fountain Square, which will be revealed in early 2015.
Anyone wishing more information about the Fountain Square visioning and upcoming events may visit cityofevanston.org/myfountainsquare or contact Senior Project Manager Stefanie Levine at 847-448-4311.
In January of 2003, the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) held a design charette to brainstorm ideas for a revamped Fountain Square. In August of that year, Assistant City Manager Judith Aiello and Senior Project Manager Stefanie Levine summarized the four designs in a memo to then City Manager Roger Crum. Excerpts of that memo follow:
“To date the City has not conducted any formal evaluation of the needs and capital costs for said renovation and that all planning efforts undertaken thus far have been internal and/or ‘pro bono’ activities. This memorandum will summarize the ideas received from ASLA and some planning options for the Council to consider. …
“As determined through recent staff review and previous assessments performed by hired architects, in order to address the many capital improvement/emergency repair needs at Fountain Square, a potential redesign and installation of new fountains at this location is anticipated to cost at least $2.0+ million. The Fountain Square Plaza was reconstructed in 1977 and is nearing the end of its component or ‘useful’ life of 20-25 years. … The City recognizes the historical and emotional significance of this site and its importance as one of the few remaining public spaces downtown, which serves as a gathering place for community events.
“Four design teams were formed, representing over 20 Chicagoland landscape architects, each headed by highly skilled team leaders in their field. … The following summarizes the four design concepts developed by the teams and reviewed by the jury:
“Design 1 – Concentric Circles with Steps – this design emphasizes radial patterns to define the open space around the Plaza. The center focuses on a large (potential 45’ diameter) “zero depth” fountain with multiple jet sources to allow for a diverse display of water. Cooperation from surrounding property owners and the City is paramount to the success of this design. Additional considerations could include new trees in grates, a rear café, and changes to the Fountain Square building facade. …
“Design 2 – River Runs Through It – this design focuses on 2 water basins, one within the existing Fountain Square space and one south of Davis Street in the existing landscaped median. The basins are connected by a ribbon-like component which could include paving and/or water and plant material. Additionally, this design moves the War Memorial columns to the Plaza’s outer limits and places the flagpole at the south end of the landscaped median at Sherman Avenue.
“Design 3 – Spiral Form Fountain – this design uses a spiral to form the basic paving pattern of the Plaza and sets five (5) water columns (with etched names in glass tubes) lighted from within for each branch of service along the spiral’s path. The paving pattern is created with lit blue glass spiraling out from the Plaza’s center.
“Design 4 – Rotated Grid Concept – this design utilizes a water wall in lieu of a fountain and emphasizes a grid pattern to define the space and relate to the surrounding street alignments.”
The 2003 memo contains these general recommendations: “Several members of the jury indicated that the four schemes could be merged into two or even one ultimate design due to such common aspects as a) the idea of expanding the design treatment beyond the limits of the Orrington/Sherman/Davis Street peninsula; b) keeping water as part of the design but not exclusively in the form of a fountain; c) the need to allow for views from all vantage points (not just ground level); d) use of adjacent structures and roadways as significant contributions to the character and use of the space; and e) private as well as public spaces within the site were deemed critical to the successful redesign.”