Proposed rendering of Splash Pad. Rendering from City of Evanston

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City Council voted on Jan. 8 to enter into a 50-year lease for the former Shore School property, at 2525 Church St. from the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District. Rent totals only $10 per year, but the lease requires the City to spend up to $400,000 to demolish the existing school building within five years. The lease also limits the use of the property to recreational uses and requires a stormwater management plan, which, according to a report by City staff, is expected to be a rain garden.

In anticipation of an agreement’s being reached, Council voted to include $400,000 in the 2018 capital improvement budget, said Alderman Peter Braithwaite, 2nd Ward. Capital improvements are generally paid for using funds obtained through general obligation bonds payable primarily through property taxes. “Staff will seek grants, future [Capital Improvement Plan] funding and other funding sources to assist with the costs related to restoring the property to green space and adding recreational amenities over the course of time,” wrote staff in the memo accompanying the agenda item.

Plans for possible recreational uses have not been finalized, but the staff report contemplates a soccer field and splash pad, along with a parking lot on Church Street to serve the new park, which in fact will be a southward expansion of Beck Park. Plans also include a projected extension of the Beck Park bike path through to Church Street.

Alderman Robin Rue Simmons, whose Fifth Ward includes the McCormick-Church site, asked for suspension of the rules so the matter could be voted on immediately. Under normal rules, an ordinance requires a reading at one meeting then debate and vote at the next. Council regularly suspends those rules, however, to read and vote on an ordinance at a single meeting. Suspension of the rules requires the unanimous vote of Council, and aldermen voted 7-0 to suspend the rules to approve the lease.

“Staff worked very hard with MWRD to get this,” said Ald. Rue Simmons at the Administration and Public Works Committee meeting, held earlier that evening. “Hopefully we can work long-term toward building something very exciting there – like, super exciting.”

“Sounds like a beautiful deal for kids,” said resident James Engelman during citizen comment. “I think kids will enjoy this.”

The matter passed at full Council on the consent agenda without discussion.