It’s taken almost four years, but a proposal to fund a new $6.3 million building for the Evanston Animal Shelter should be on the Oct. 10 agenda of the City Council.
On Tuesday, Sept. 27, during a special 17-minute meeting, the Animal Welfare Board agreed to send a letter of recommendation to the City Council that reads in part:
“The current facility is outdated and antiquated. The current building is not ADA compliant. The HVAC system is unreliable and has broken down over the hottest days of the summer posing a great risk to both the animals and humans inside. Also, there is no fire suppression system in the building. Additionally, most of the animals are housed in areas that were not originally intended for animal housing due to how the building is structured.”
“The city recognized a long time ago that the building was unreliable and on its last legs,” said Vicky Pasenko, executive director of the shelter. “So, this process started and we first met about a Cook County grant application in November of 2018 and then COVID happened and of course, everything in the world was affected by that.”
The proposal is scheduled to go before the Land Use Committee for a public hearing at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 28, as it requires two special variances: 16 parking spaces where the city would normally require 25, and “one short open loading berth that is not located within the rear yard and is substandard in length,” according to the Land Use agenda.
The Cook County grant raised $2 million and the shelter’s capital campaign plans to raise another $1 million. The city is expected to fund the remaining costs for the $6.3 million building, which is to be built on the same spot as the current shelter, 2310 Oakton St.
From a pound to a shelter
Pasenko said when the building was built in 1987, it was never meant to house animals. “It was primarily a pound situation,” she said, where dogs were euthanized “and cats were never planned for.”
The designs for the new facility, drawn by the Chicago architecture firm of Holabird & Root, also represent the city’s philosophical shift from a pound to a shelter.
The organization’s primary objective now, Pasenko said, is to serve pet owners as well as care for and place stray cats and dogs. Or as the mission is stated on its website: “We give companion animals the best chance at the life they deserve through rehabilitation, foster care, adoption and community support that keeps pets with the people who love them.”
The programs at the shelter include a food pantry that hands out between 20,000 to 30,000 pounds of food annually to owners in financial need and a custodial program to house animals for six to eight weeks if residents are displaced – for example, by fire.
Once the current building is razed, the dogs will be moved to a temporary space in the city’s recycling center, which is next to the shelter. Not all the details are worked out yet, but Pasenko said there is time to finalize the plans. “The city owns that property, and while there has to be some maintenance to house the dogs, it should be fine,” Pasenko said. “For the cats, I think we are going to have to rent a place.”
If the project ultimately wins approval, groundbreaking for the new facility should be in the spring 2023 and the approximately 8,810-square-foot, one-story building is expected to be completed by December 2023 or January 2024.