The revitalized Fountain Square will have a “signature fountain” and a “respectful veterans’ memorial,” and, although the plaza itself will not be enlarged, the streetscape and street design will encompass part of Sherman Avenue north of Davis Street.
The process to re-vision and rehabilitate Fountain Square began two years ago. “We needed to take our time,” said Public Works Director Suzette Robinson at a design meeting held on March 11 in a vacant storefront not far from the plaza. Aesthetic and infrastructure problems are wearing down the plaza, said Stefanie Levine, senior project manager for Public Works. She noted the poor lighting, non-functioning or poorly functioning pumps, inadequate and uncomfortable seating, and problems with accessibility.
Planners and designers looked at the plaza and its environs with the ideas of “improving users’ experience, reducing the dominance of automobiles in the area, separating the ceremonial from the casual [uses] and creating a flexible environment for year-round usage,” Ms. Levine said.
Jodie Mariano of Teska Associates, the design company hired by the City, said survey results showed that most people were interested in having arts, festivals and other events, and dining opportunities there. Completing the sentence “Fountain Square would be better if …,” respondents suggested that the plaza be “connected, pedestrian-friendly, a shared space and a focal point” and that it have flowers.
Asked to come up with three words to describe the plaza, respondents most often said “green,” “open,” and “community.” A video showing the uses of Fountain Square in a single typical day and summarizing the results from the community is available at “my fountain square” on the City’s website, cityofevanston.org.
Teska had four goals, Ms. Mariano said,
and the firm displayed four concept designs, one for each of them: imaginative, family-friendly place (the blue one); a sustainable and innovative high-tech, green plaza (green); a programmed, all-season, community-event space (red); and a vibrant, pedestrian-friendly event space (purple). Each design is drawn from the
perspective of looking northwest from the southeast part of Fountain Square, at the corner of Davis Street and
Orrington Avenue. In each one, the red brick squares indicate shared streets. Curbs are removed from these streets and the street raised to the level of the sidewalk, accommodating pedestrians, bicycles, and automobiles.
The Public Works Department encourages community members who did not attend the meeting to share their input regarding the new design concepts for Fountain Square by visiting cityofevanston.org/myfountainsquare or calling/texting 847-448-4311, though March 31.
The Fountain and the PlazaIt was called “Six Corners” before it became Fountain Square, and before there was a fountain, horse troughs formed the water feature.
The original fountain was dedicated on July 4, 1876, celebrating the country’s centennial. That fountain now graces the Merrick Rose Garden on Oak Avenue.
The fountain was replaced in 1949, and the space was dedicated as a war memorial then. Today’s three fountains were installed in 1976, in honor of the country’s bicentennial, and a few years ago the plaza was formally named Veterans Memorial Plaza.
City Project Manager Stefanie Levine said the site “has been the center of town since 1864,” and Teska Associates, the design company hired by the City, called the area “an indelible part of Evanston’s urban fabric.”
Now, after years of discussion and dreaming, the plaza awaits its next iteration.