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The RoundTable invited the Seventh Ward aldermanic candidates, Eleanor Revelle and Mary Rosinski, to offer a tour of the Seventh Ward that included its top three assets and top three challenges before the April 6 general election.
Alderman Eleanor Revelle’s Seventh Ward
One of the Seventh Ward’s greatest assets is its abundance of natural areas and green spaces, including Ladd Arboretum, Canal Shores Golf Course, Isabella Woods, and the Clark Street Beach Bird Sanctuary. These extensive green spaces uplift the spirits of residents out walking, biking, and birdwatching. They attract dozens of volunteers who devote many hours each year to clearing invasives and establishing valuable native habitats for beneficial wildlife. And they contribute to our community’s climate resilience as they help improve local air quality, sequester carbon, and improve stormwater retention.
The Central Street Business District is deservedly famous for its eclectic mix of independent businesses, a wide variety of excellent restaurants, and the delicious treats available from its numerous bakeries and specialty food shops. The Evanston Art Center, on Central Street since 2015, enriches the neighborhood with art classes and exhibitions. The district’s pedestrian-oriented, small-town feel is safeguarded by the Central Street Master Plan (2007) and by zoning restrictions on building height and ground floor uses.
The Seventh Ward’s third unique asset is the Lighthouse Landing Complex, which includes the Grosse Point Lighthouse, the Harley Clarke mansion and associated Jens Jensen Gardens, the Northeast Park, and Noah’s Playground for Everyone — all adjoining popular Lighthouse Beach. The Grosse Point Lighthouse, a National Historic Landmark, was built in 1873, and today houses a maritime museum. The Harley Clarke mansion, an Evanston Landmark built 1928, is currently the focus of an RFP process to determine the future of the building. The Council Ring, a Jens Jensen landscape feature, is the scene of small group gatherings around the campfire most summer evenings.
Some challenges include the following: Northwestern University, a major asset to Evanston as a whole, has a large footprint in, and thus a major impact on, the 7th Ward. This impact falls especially heavily on the neighborhoods surrounding the Ryan Field athletic campus. Football home games bring throngs of happy fans to Evanston, contributing athletic contest tax revenues to city coffers and attracting patrons to local restaurants and hotels. For Ryan Field neighbors, the games also mean parking congestion on local streets, disrupted traffic patterns, litter on their lawns, and some unpleasant “bad fan behavior.” For many Central Street businesses, it means lost revenues as regular shoppers avoid the area on game days.
Adding to neighbors’ frustrations, in November 2019 the City Council, over my strong objection, approved a two-year pilot allowing the university to host as many as 13 days/year of professional sports and commercial entertainment events on the athletic campus. Due to the pandemic, none of the newly permitted for-profit events have yet taken place, and the implementation of a proposed event-based resident-only parking program has been postponed. Monitoring the eventual implementation and impacts of the pilot, both positive and negative, on the city and the neighborhood will be a challenging and essential assignment in the near term.
Ensuring that the Central Street Business District makes a strong recovery from the pandemic is another critical challenge. There are a number of vacant storefronts, and the loss of the North Branch Library has left a particularly large hole on the street and in the hearts of area residents. E-commerce adds to the challenge. The relatively new Central Street Special Service Area can help with marketing initiatives and special events to draw in shoppers and remind them of the street’s wonderful variety of unique local stores, bakeries, and restaurants.
A third challenge is reaching an agreement on the future of the Harley Clarke mansion, a subject of discussion and heated debate for almost ten years. Four proposals to renovate and reuse the mansion have been received and are being reviewed by City staff. It will soon be City Council’s turn to evaluate the proposals — their proposed uses for the property, fundraising plans, renovation timelines, and business models.
Mary Rosinski’s Seventh Ward
The three top assets aside from the people, it’s our natural resources such as lighthouse beach and lakefront parks, golf course and neighborhood parks. Business district: multiple restaurants, shops, coffee shops, Evanston Art Center, post office sadly we no longer have a branch library Public Services: Hospital, Schools, El, Metra, Northwestern, churches.
The top three challenges: Preservation of the natural resources: beaches, parks and recreation areas help support out property values and property tax base. Supporting local business district to be successful and expanding our sales tax revenue so property taxes don’t increase Northwestern Sports Complex: establishing healthy relationships and boundaries which protect and preserve surrounding residential neighborhoods quality of life and property values. Also working with Northwestern to be a substantial fair share neighbor by making substantial Payments in Lieu of taxes on its 242 acres of tax-exempt properties.
The Seventh Ward is an amazing ward that could be its own small town. It is about 2.5 miles east to west. Starting at the priceless natural resource Lighthouse Landing park, beach, Harley Clarke, Gross Point. Heading west we pass beautiful vintage homes, Orrington School, Evanston Hospital and medical building, the “El” which abuts Chandler Recreation Center, Canal Shores Golf Course and American Legion Hall both of which provide relaxing and affordable recreation for Evanston residents and visitors. The fire station across from the golf course provides essential lifesaving services and is a great neighbor.
Walking west past townhomes, condos, apartments and single-family, sports loyalists will love Northwestern’s athletic complex with Welsh Ryan Arena, Ryan Field, Rocky Miller Baseball field, all of which sits on about 42 acres of land and can host approx. 8-40,000
Next, we encounter world-famous- or at least Evanston famous- Mustards. Last Stand, which is one of the reasons my husband & I moved here. I wanted the parks and he loved hot dogs.
Mustards marks the beginning of the inviting and picturesque boutique Central St. shopping district which is home to unique shops and restaurants. St. As Church and school is one block south of Central, and McCulloch park one block to the North. The Evanston Art Center is a cultural destination for all of Evanston and surrounding communities. Food establishments and a variety of retail shops round out the experience.
Next is the corner of Greenbay at Central which is one of the most dangerous intersections in the city due to the traffic from 3 shifts of hospital traffic coming and going down Central Greenbay and Sheridan, the school busses and commuters from the Metra all of which create congestion and confusion. Additionally, Central St. is the route to the trauma hospital and ambulances from surrounding communities are frequent users.
On the west side of Greenbay the business district continues with a post office, unique boutique shops, all of which support the neighborhoods, it draws people from all over Evanston and the North Shore, Back Lot Coffee, Starbucks, Tags Bakery, Prairie Joes, Walsh Homeopathic, Stella’s, Notice, Spice House, Paper source, and Great Harvest are a few. To the North there are neighborhoods with a combination of single-family, townhomes and multi-family properties, a rain garden park.
To the south is Haven Jr. High, Kingsley Elementary, the backlot and other beautiful neighborhoods as well a the Ecology Center and bike trail.
About These Candidates:
The RoundTable’s questionnaire also asked why each candidate wished to be aldermen, what the duties and priorities of an alderman are, and how much time she or he would devote to the job.
Ald. Revelle moved to Evanston in 1973 when her husband Bill joined the faculty of psychology at Northwestern. She has lived in the Seventh Ward since 2003 and has two sons.
Why She’s Running: “Before joining the City Council, I served as President of the League of Women Voters of Evanston and of Illinois, Board Chair of the Evanston Community Foundations, co-founder of the Public Service Challenge, and a founding member and President of Citizens’ Greener Evanston. I want to serve another term as alderman in order to make more progress on my top priorities.
The climate crisis demands that we make serious progress on implementing our Climate Action and Resilience Plan. Helping Evanston become a truly sustainable community has been my priority since I worked with City staff to draft Evanston’s first climate action plan (2008) and then helped found Citizens’ Greener Evanston to implement the plan. Over the next four years, we must focus on the interim goals CARP has set for target years 2025 and 2030.”
Priorities: “During my five years on the Council, I have gained valuable knowledge and experience on affordable housing, another top priority. As a member of the Affordable Housing Plan Steering Committee, I am committed to our completing and implementing a meaningful plan that will result in a significant increase in our supply of affordable housing. I am committed to completing work on an Alternative 9-1-1 Response program that will send behavioral health professionals (rather than police officers) to handle crisis situations.”
Ms. Rosinski has lived and worked full-time as a real estate broker at the office on Central St. and raised fie children in the Seventh Ward where she has resided for the last 30 years.
Why She’s Running: “I want to be a voice on the council not in front of council so I can ask the questions which need to be asked before moving forward with important decisions regarding money and planning. For years I have spoken in front of the council to speak for transparency, fiscal responsibility and consistency, and against the arbitrary application of our municipal code. The city council has failed to create and follow long-term plans, maintain a reasonable budget, or follow a capital improvements plan. Without the residents, who are on the top of the city organizational chart we have not to need for city government, and yet, Council has demonstrated a lack of respect for residents who come before them, they have cost taxpayers millions of dollars on mismanaged projects, and spending on projects we don’t need while overlooking the preservation and maintenance of our public assets. This behavior has increased our debt by almost 100% since 2016 the city has increased its debt by approx. 80,000,000. We have to stop spending and using resident’s property tax dollars, parking fees and service cuts to pay the bill. I have been active in the community for the past 30 years. The city council votes have gone against the will of the 1000s or residents who were before them asking them to follow the municipal code and to speak up. I want to make Evanston a place where our children can afford to live, and people can age in place because we planned well, have a healthy tax base and reasonable property taxes.”
Priorities: “Creating long term plans for goals, budget, debt reduction, build capital improvement fund, continual training for equity for decision making, economic development to promote existing businesses and startups, reduce parking penalties and reallocate funds for policing.”