The alley running alongside the parking lot currently under construction next to Ryan Field and running between Central and Isabella streets was approved by City Council on July 11. Council modified the alley, shrinking it from 18 feet wide to a single, 12-foot, at the request of neighbors and Alderman Eleanor Revelle, 7thWard.
The modifications will save the City about $160,000. Northwestern University’s contribution to the project will remain at $400,000, as agreed to previously. Under Evanston ordinances, alley- paving costs are shared 50-50, with the City covering half the cost and property owners abutting the alley covering the other half. When the parking-lot project was approved last year, Northwestern promised to cover the residents’ portion of the alley or contribute $400,000, whichever is greater, according to the staff memo.
The alley proposed by City staff was “a two-way, 18-foot-wide concrete alley with a new sewer main” and drainage, at an estimated cost of $822,000. The City would have paid its half, or $411,000.
The alley projected was designed and the “business by motion” memo “prepared while Alderman Revelle was out of the country. Happily, she has returned,” said City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz, who then asked her to address the issue.
Ald. Revelle then proposed the amendment providing for a shrunken alley. Several residents, speaking at citizen comment at both City Council and the Administration and Public Works Committee meeting, called for the single-lane alley.
Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, said “Northwestern pays the neighbors’ portion, but we still pay the City portion. This is an NU problem” and they should be asked to pay for the entire alley. Money saved “could be very easily put toward another alley where citizens are paying their share,” she said.
“The issue has been thoroughly discussed with the University, and this is what they agreed to,” said Mr. Bobkiewicz. Half, or $400,000, whichever is greater, nothing more.
Ald. Rainey also noted the unusual nature of the agenda item. Generally, alley paving comes with an assessment by ordinance that sets the neighbors’ portion of the cost. Because the neighbors in this case are not required to pay anything, the agenda item appeared as “Business of the City by Motion.” As such, fixed costs were not attached, and the cost of the alley was roughly estimated based on history and experience.
Ald, Revelle assured Council members that the numbers were fair estimates, saying Director of Public Works Dave Stoneback provided the estimate.
“What, out in the hall?” asked Ald. Rainey.
Not in the hall, replied Ald. Revelle, but in his office.
When it came time to vote, Ald, Rainey said, “Yes, because I like the people in the Seventh Ward.” All other aldermen voted “yes” without comment.