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There will always be a fountain in Fountain Square, Public Works Director Suzette Robinson said at a joint First and Fourth ward meeting on July 14. The handful of residents sitting in City Council chambers heard presentations of the four concepts for a new Fountain Square that were created by Teska Associates and first presented to the public in March.

With input from residents throughout the City, gathered through surveys, “tip” jars in local businesses and a visioning table at the harvest celebration last fall, Teska identified four goals and offered a color-coded concept design for each: an imaginative, family-friendly place (blue); 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).

In addition to creating an attractive public space, the designs take into consideration the other function of the area, honoring the City’s war veterans. Fountain Square is also Veterans Memorial Plaza. The flagpole, Ms. Robinson said, would be kept with the veterans memorial.

Ms. Robinson invited residents at the July 14 meeting to vote for their two favorite choices “if money was no object.” After showing them the cost of each design and how much each would affect on-street parking along Sherman Avenue, she asked them to again vote for their two favorite designs.

Stefanie Levine, senior project manager in the City’s Public Works Department, described the main features of each design concept.

Blue – a Family-Friendly Concept

Changes in traffic patterns and reduction of parking spaces are involved in the Blue design, which stretches along Sherman Avenue from Church Street to Davis Street. Eliminating on-street parking would allow expansion of the sidewalks, and an allee of trees along Sherman Avenue would give it a more pedestrian – one resident said “Parisian” – feel. The wider sidewalks would also increase pedestrian traffic, which First Ward Alderman Judy Fiske said would benefit shop-owners.

Green – a Sustainable Space

The open space in the Green Concept is a lawn, and there is an allee of trees along the perimeter of the square. The veterans memorial would be relocated to the west, along Orrington Avenue, and would consist of green-screened panels with a metal overhead shade structure. There would be a wind turbine, and seating would be cube benches of recycled material.

Red – an All-Season Community Event Space

In the Red concept, the fountain area would become an ice rink in winter. There would be a permanent holiday tree in the plaza, and a flexible seating area along Orrington Avenue. The veterans memorial would be relocated to the wide median between Sherman and Orrington avenues south of Davis Street.

Purple- a Vibrant Event Space

Sherman Avenue between Church and Davis streets, in the Purple concept, would be shared street. The street would be raised to sidewalk level, and there would be a two-way protected bike lane and a mid-block plaza with trees, seating opportunities and public art. In the plaza itself, an interactive fountain and the space for the Christmas tree, the menorah and the Kwanzaa kinara, or candle-holder, would be within the smaller of two concentric circles, and the memorial would be on the south rim of the outer circle.

Costs and Money

According to projections from the City, the costs in lost revenue and parking spaces eliminated from both Sherman and Orrington avenues varies from a total of three spaces eliminated and a loss of $10,000 in revenue to a total of 45 spaces eliminated and a revenue loss of $152,000.

The costs implementing the various designs run from about $3.1 million for the Green concept and about $5.4 million for the Purple. The Red would run about $3.7 million, and the Blue, $4.9 million. Following none of the designs but simply replacing the current structures would be about $2.9 million.

Much of the cost could be covered with funds from the Washington National tax-increment financing (TIF) district, Ms. Robinson says. At present there is about $4.4 million in the TIF fund, with about $1.5 to $2 million added each year, said Assistant City Manager/CFO Martin Lyons. 

Further Refinement

The March open house where the four design concepts were unveiled, presentations to the City’s Parks and Recreation Board and the board of Downtown Evanston all had one goal, said Ms. Robinson: to winnow out the two least favorite concepts and determine the viability of the two remaining concepts, which could be modified.

“We will consolidate the feedback and present it to City Council in late July or August and request approval to develop requests for proposals to prepare preliminary design for the two concepts,” Ms. Robinson said. She said she hopes a final design will be in place by January.

The four design concepts may be found under “myfountainsquare” at cityofevanston.org.