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March Madness dominated the first few minutes of the March 13 City Council meeting, with excitement over Northwestern University’s first invitation to the NCAA tournament and the Evanston Township High School boys basketball team ranked number one in the State and heading into the semi-finals.

During citizen comment, some residents called fouls on the City for advertising on a website they felt had demeaning and racist headlines and posts. Alderman Brian Miller, 9th Ward, asked that the Rules Committee discuss standards to allocate City funds for advertising.

Through the consent agenda – those items approved without discussion by aldermen – Little Beans, 430 Asbury Ave., and Red Hot Chili Pepper, 500 Davis St., received licenses to sell alcohol (Red Hot Chili Pepper) and wine and beer (Little Beans).

Renovation and modernization projects were up next, and funding was approved for storefront modernization to Gross Point Plaza, 2504-2510 Gross Point Road, Lake City Cleaners, 600 Oakton St., and Red Hot Chili Pepper, an Indian-Chinese restaurant.

The $16,500 to Gross Point Plaza will be used for façade renovations, including accessibility improvements and installation of new windows and doors. Lake City Cleaners will spend its $10,648 on the installation of an RPZ backflow prevention device, and a water pressure booster pump within the building’s plumbing systems, to bring it into compliance with plumbing code requirements. Red Hot Chili Pepper will receive $10,700 for façade renovations including the addition of a revolving door, relocation of an accessible entrance, and installation of new windows and signage.

Good to Go Jamaican Restaurant, after some controversy over its relocation proposals, has come to the Evanston side of Howard Street. Aldermen approved both a storefront modernization grant of $50,000 for renovations including plumbing, electrical, HVAC, concrete work, masonry work, painting, drywall, and demolition and a community development block grant loan of $25,000.

The engineering company for Fountain Square renovation project, Christopher Burke Engineering, received two extensions – one in time and one in money. The new contract deadline is June 30, 2018, and the amount of the contact was increased from $401,897.88 to $747,531.89. That is just to prepare the site. The nearly $6 million renovation itself will be done by Copenhaver Construction of Gilberts, Ill.

The project will involve constructing a new plaza with enhanced roadway pavements east, west and south of the plaza, a zero-depth water feature, etched glass Veteran’s Memorial wall, paving, lighting, new flagpole, and landscaping.

The small island just south of Fountain Square will be enhanced and enlarged to create a “flexible expanded pedestrian environment and shared street.” This will be done by removing one through lane of traffic on Sherman Avenue and Orrington Avenue each, relocating the Davis Street westbound left turn lane from Orrington Avenue to the west side of the island, onto Sherman Avenue, and adding new paving, lighting, an event kiosk, permanent holiday trees, and landscaping.

Aldermen also approved funding for Connelly Martial Arts Academy to offer classes at the Levy Center soon. 

The meeting, which began early because only the Administration and Public Works Committee meeting preceded it, also ended at a comparatively early time. With few reports during the final aspect of the meeting, the Call of the Wards, and no executive session scheduled, Council members left the meeting.