City of Evanston Annual Report 2019
City Council Goals
Invest in City Infrastructure and Facilities
Enhance Community Development and Job Creation Citywide
Expand Affordable Housing Options
Ensure Equity in All City Operations
Stabilize Long-term City Finances
One of the Coolest Suburbs in America, named by Apartment Therapy
Community Wildlife Habitat Certification, awarded to Evanston
Implementation Award, awarded to the Fountain Square Project by American Planning Association-Illinois Chapter
Distinguished Budget Presentation Award, awarded to City’s Finance Division by the Government Finance Officers Association
Fountain Square Refreshed
Evanston’s newest community gathering space made a splash in May as hundreds joined together to celebrate the dedication of the new zero-depth fountain in Fountain Square. The celebration capped off a two-year project to re-envision and refresh Evanston’s central plaza, which has undergone several transformations since it was first dedicated in 1876.
An entertainment lineup featuring Bhangra and Flamenco dancers and a bagpiper celebrated the City’s incredible diversity and set the tone for the wide variety of community events, rallies and celebrations to be held in the space in the years to come.
Construction for the Fountain Square project began in April 2017. In addition to the new fountain, the project includes a Veterans Memorial Wall, a new community plaza south of Davis Street, a pedestrian-friendly "curbless" streetscape, street lighting improvements, traffic signal modernization, landscaping, street furniture and more. With placemaking in mind, the City worked with community members, business owners and veterans to reimagine this public space in the heart of Evanston to be a place where the community could come together to enjoy everything Evanston’s downtown has to offer. According to Executive Director of Downtown Evanston, Annie Coakley, the finished project has done just that.
“I love the open and flexible design of the space, allowing it to be used for special events of all sizes and purposes, but also impromptu meet-ups and planned group dining experiences. I often overhear people say, ‘This is the greatest addition to downtown in a long time,’” said Coakley.
In September, the American Planning Association-Illinois Chapter recognized the Fountain Square project with its 2019 Implementation Award, writing “Since opening in May, the redeveloped plaza, which includes a new, interactive fountain and other placemaking features, has become THE place to be downtown.”
Throughout the summer and fall, children were seen playing in the fountain to cool off from the heat while downtown diners enjoyed a meal from a local restaurant on the colorful patio furniture. “The ability for families to play in the fountain and sit and enjoy the atmosphere brings an added charm to Evanston’s downtown that had previously been missing,” remarked Denise Sieja, owner of local business Trattoria Demi.
Downtown Evanston also hosted a variety of events and programs at the plaza that attracted residents, employees and visitors, including Thursday Night Live concerts, Evanston’s first Pride Fest, and the annual ‘Kits, Cats and Kids Block Party.
“It was a great first year of programming and we are constantly thinking of unique ways to use the renovated plaza to attract new audiences!” said Coakley.
Joe Norman, Bulley & Andrews
Connecting residents with sustainable career paths
Five years ago, lifelong Evanston resident Joe Norman was making ends meet helping friends and relatives with painting and remodeling projects. Today, the 39-year-old not only has a paid carpenter’s apprenticeship with construction firm Bulley & Andrews, he’s part of the team constructing the City’s largest Capital Improvement Project in decades, the brand new Robert Crown Community Center and Library.
Norman’s path to success began at the Evanston Rebuilding Warehouse (ERW). In 2015, he enrolled in ERW’s Green Workforce Training Program, a five-month comprehensive program that provides residents with on-the-job and classroom training in environmentally sustainable deconstruction methods, as well as certifications and skills to help them access careers in the building trades. For Norman, the program not only put him on the pathway to becoming a carpenter, it taught him the importance and value of sustainable building practices.
“It opened my eyes to how much material can be used again instead of going to the landfill,” he said.
In 2019, the City’s Economic Development Committee supported ERW with a $15,000 Small Business Workforce Development Fund grant, which helps the organization pay Evanston residents Cook County minimum wage ($12 per hour) while they complete the 40-hour-per-week program. The City also provided $40,000 from its Local Employment Program penalty fund, providing participants the opportunity to obtain valuable certifications, such as OSHA 10 and Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) accreditation, which are crucial to accessing union apprenticeships.
ERW Executive Director Aina Gutierrez credits partnerships with the City and other organizations, including McGaw YWCA, the Moran Center, Curt’s Café, Opportunity Advancement Innovation, Inc., Byline Bank, and National Able Network, as vital to the program’s success.
“Our community partners provide personal and professional job readiness support throughout the training program and beyond,” said Gutierrez. “That support is critical to helping graduates get jobs in the building trades.”
Since 2015, approximately 50 participants have completed the Green Workforce Training Program, bringing their skills and knowledge of environmentally sustainable construction practices to employers like Bulley & Andrews, the Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters, the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers, Evanston Handyman, PDQ Construction, and many others.
For Norman, the satisfaction of forging a career as a carpenter is only matched by the feeling he gets when completing a project, like the hockey stick rack he recently built for the Crown Center.
“I love seeing the work when it’s actually finished—being able to identify problems, fix things, and make improvements,” he said.
With the Robert Crown Community Center and Library now open, Norman’s work at the site is coming to an end. However, with the knowledge, tools and experience he’s gained as a carpenter’s apprentice, his career is just beginning.
Fifteen units at Albion are affordable to those making 50, 60 or 80 percent of the Area Median Income.
High-rise affordability in downtown Evanston
One of Evanston’s newest residential developments boasts a unique feature few other downtown buildings offer: 15 on-site affordable housing units.
The 15-story, 268-unit Albion building, located just south of Fountain Square, was completed at the end of 2019, eventually bringing 400 new residents to downtown Evanston and expanding affordable housing options in the City.
The building, which features floor-to-ceiling windows, a rooftop pool, fitness center, and a lobby reminiscent of a boutique hotel, is just a short walk from the CTA and Metra Davis Street stations, offering residents easy access to public transportation and all the amenities of downtown Evanston.
Fifteen of the building’s apartments, including eight studios, four one-bedroom units and three two-bedroom units, are affordable to those making 50, 60 or 80 percent of the Area Median Income. Prospective tenants are selected from a wait list managed by Community Partners for Affordable Housing (CPAH). Leasing is currently underway, with three of the units now occupied.
Sarah Flax, City of Evanston housing and grants manager, says the City is working to encourage more on-site affordable units, particularly in transit-oriented developments like Albion, with its revised Inclusionary Housing Ordinance (IHO), which went into effect at the beginning of 2019.
“The City is working to make affordable units available in places where they historically have not been available,” Flax said.
In addition to the prime location, all units throughout the building feature the same high-end finishes, including stainless steel appliances, quartz countertops, and wood-like flooring, said Andrew Yule, vice president of development at Albion.
“There’s nothing differentiating inclusionary units from other units in the building,” said Yule, noting that in addition to the in-unit finishes, all Albion residents have access to the building’s amenities and common areas at no additional cost.
As part of the development approved by City Council, Albion also agreed to provide other community benefits, including improvements and ongoing maintenance for Harper Park, $50,000 for the City’s public art fund, $50,000 to support ETHS’s entrepreneurship and apprenticeship program, and painting and restoration of the Lake Street Metra viaduct. The site also features a new, publicly accessible pocket park at the south end of the property.
With the Albion project complete, other new projects are underway. Just a few blocks north and west, at 1727 Oak Ave., 17 more affordable units are now being constructed as part of the Avidor Evanston development.
The City Council also updated zoning restrictions in 2019 to make it easier for property owners to construct Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs), or coach houses, on their property, paving the way for new housing types and more affordable units, particularly in high-cost Evanston neighborhoods.
The Levy Senior Center's senior lunch program.
City reviews social services through a racial equity lense
Knowing the many challenges involved, yet recognizing its profound importance, the City of Evanston embarked on the first step in its long journey towards ensuring equity in all City operations by beginning a review of its social services.
Operating through a racial equity lense, the goal of the review was to identify the barriers community members face when pursuing City services and to determine the best way to remove those barriers.
“It’s important for everyone to have access to services here in Evanston, especially those who need them the most,” said Audrey Thompson, community services manager for the City of Evanston. “In order to make this a reality, it was critical for us to include community groups and members in the review process.”
With this in mind, the City formed a Social Services Core Committee that met multiple times with City staff, non-profit organizations, General Assistance Program and Senior Services Program participants, as well as other community members.
“How could we truly make meaningful changes to our social services without getting feedback from the community on what they’re currently experiencing and would like to see in the future? What came out of these meetings was meaningful and allowed us to form concrete recommendations,” said Kimberly Richardson, deputy city manager.
After identifying barriers like a lack of transparency, inconsistent goal-setting and application of rules, and a lack of justifications for budget changes, the Committee made recommendations to City Council in the fall. These recommendations included creating a resident-focused intake process, increasing community engagement, prioritizing the Mental Health Board and CDBC Public Services Funding to external partners, and realigning the Health and Human Services Department.
By the end of the year, all social service programs were consolidated under the Health & Human Services Department in order to best serve Evanston’s most marginalized populations. A separate Human Services Fund was also created in the budget, which established a dedicated source of funding for these services into the future.
This work served as the first phase in a more in-depth review of social services to come in 2020.
Two-year Budget preparation helps the City plan for the future
For the first time in Evanston’s history, the City prepared a two-year budget in an effort to help stabilize long-term City finances and ensure sustainability.
The Fiscal Year 2020-21 Budget planning process included gathering feedback from the community through a series of three Community Budget Roundtable Discussions and concluded with the 2020 Budget adoption by City Council on November 25. In 2019, all union contracts were negotiated through 2022, which allowed the City to better estimate future costs, plan ahead and manage spending, leading to the creation of a 2021 Projected Budget.
As part of the budget planning process and following a comprehensive Social Services Assessment, all social services were consolidated into the Health and Human Services Department. A separate Human Services tax levy was established to separate these services from the City’s general fund expenses, establishing a dedicated source of funding into the future.
“We’ve taken many steps over the past year to help improve City finances and set us up for future success,” said Erika Storlie, interim city manager. “With more planned in 2020, like financial forecasting and reviewing City assets, we’re certainly headed in the right direction.”
In addition to moving to a two-year budget process, the City will also begin using a five-year financial forecasting software to assist with long-range financial projects and planning. The goal of using financial forecasting is to ensure that City officials make decisions that are beneficial for the long-term financial health of Evanston.
In order to help make sound capital investment decisions and help sustain City finances, a contractor will be reviewing all current City assets in 2020 to determine their values and best future uses. This review could result in the sale or repurposing of current assets.
Saving Lives and Property
The Evanston Fire Department responded to a record 10,526 calls for service in 2019, including 3,848 fire service calls and 6,678 emergency medical services calls, with an average response time of three minutes and eighteen seconds. In all, 69 fires were mitigated, resulting in $71 million of property saved and 0 fire fatalities.
Improving Emergency Preparedness
The Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) expanded its membership by 38 percent, contributing 1,152 hours of volunteer service to the Evanston community.
Supporting Healthy Communities
EFD partnered with AMITA Health St. Francis Hospital to launch the Evanston Community Health Outreach (ECHO) program, providing individuals at high risk for hospital readmission with free in-home medical visits, health education, social service referrals, home safety inspections, and other support resources.
Expanding Career Pathways
The department partnered with State Rep. Robyn Gabel to pass legislation providing more individuals with a pathway to fire service careers through apprenticeship programs. Gov. Pritzker signed the bill into law in August. The department is working with Oakton Community College to develop and launch an apprenticeship program in 2020.
In November, members of the 50th Class of the Evanston Police Department's Citizen Police Academy celebrated their graduation.
Improving Public Safety
Violent crime dropped by more than 26 percent in 2019. The City saw 73 violent crime incidents in 2019, compared to 99 in 2018.
220 new Starcom radios were purchased in anticipation of the Federal Communications Commission’s plan to auction off a sliver of radio spectrum used by America’s first responders. The increased power and frequency of the new radios will improve safety, reliability, and operations.
Building Community Relations
Community engagement programs continued, including Coffee with a Cop, Star Academy, the Citizen Police Academy, the Officer and a Gentleman Academy mentorship program, Five-O Fitness program, National Night Out, and the Youth Citizen Police Academy.
Serving the Community
In 2019, Evanston 311 handled 122,964 service calls, 32,929 service requests, 2,527 live online chats, 1,666 text messages, and engaged with residents in person at 14 mobile events. Staff also established the 311 Weekly Report on the City’s Open Data Portal.
Geometry in Construction house move.
Enhancing Community Development
The Law Department continued to assist with Economic and Community Development property acquisition and development. Staff reviewed moving agreements to support relocation of ETHS’s Geometry in Construction affordable home.
Improving Public Safety
The department staffed the Citizens' Police Advisory Committee and the Alternatives to Arrest Committee, and assisted the Evanston Police Department in prosecuting traffic and ordinance court citations.
Staff completed a total rewrite of the City of Evanston Ethics Code and codified the Citizens' Police Advisory Commission.
Practicing Financial Responsibility
A majority of cases were litigated in-house. Where outside counsel was required, the department conducted a comprehensive analysis of outside legal counsel costs and implemented outside counsel billing guidelines for the City.
Due to rodent control measures taken by the Department, there was a 16 percent reduction in the number of rodent treatment requests in 2019 (601) compared to 2018 (716).
Staff responded to 16 child lead poisoning cases, performing lead assessments to identify and mitigate hazards.
824 reports of infectious diseases were investigated. Staff responded to 12 outbreaks using multiple strategies to control and prevent spreading.
The General and Emergency Assistance Program provided housing, food and utility assistance to 213 participants who had little to no income or resources to provide for their basic needs. The program also partnered with various community organizations to help 53 participants secure employment.
Ensuring Food Safety
950 restaurant inspections were conducted at over 430 food facilities.
ParkEvanston mobile app usage increased 143 percent, from 406,070 transactions in 2018 to 987,159 transactions in 2019. A new parking program for Northwestern University home football games was implemented, generating $20,000 in additional visitor revenue. 900 light fixtures were replaced with LEDs in the Sherman Avenue Garage, improving brightness and safety.
Facilitating Long-Term Planning
Four-year contracts were negotiated with all four employee unions through 2022, aiding long-term planning.
Upgrading Facilities and Fleet
In-house staff completed upgrades to multiple City facilities, including the Fleetwood-Jourdain Community Center. A new Computerized Fleet Analysis system was implemented to better track and maintain the City’s 450 vehicles.
Significant cybersecurity improvements were implemented. Security camera technology was upgraded citywide.
Fleetwood-Jourdain Community Center renovations
Improving City Facilities
Major renovations were completed at the Fleetwood-Jourdain Community Center, including new flooring, painting, a reconstructed staircase, ADA improvements, kitchen updates, and new furniture.
Investing in Capital Improvements
In 2019, the City began construction of the $22.8 million Clearwell Nine Replacement project, including replacement of a five-million-gallon treated water storage reservoir. Improvements on Main Street, from Hartrey Avenue to the west City limits were substantially completed, including traffic signal modernization, sidewalk improvements, LED street lights, roadway resurfacing, and more.
Increasing Water Supply
Evanston began serving the Morton Grove Niles Water Commission (MGNWC) with water daily in 2019, pumping more than 1 billion gallons to the Commission.
29,212 square yards of street pavement were improved under the street patching program; 1.2 miles of water main were replaced; and 2.6 miles of combined sewer main were rehabilitated.
The Levy Senior Center sent 14 teams to the National Senior Games in June, with the Women’s 70+ Silver Division North Stars taking home a gold medal. The Levy Senior Center Library was renovated and renamed after the late Joseph Levy, Jr.
Expanding Recreation Opportunities
The Let's Play Mobile Recreation Trailer offered exciting, free activities at 27 block parties, 18 special events, and 55 park visits. The Department sold 20,381 beach tokens and distributed 2,314 free beach tokens to residents.
Twenty-three athletes qualified for and attended the Special Olympics Summer Games, competing in aquatics, bocce, powerlifting and track and field events. Athletes collectively earned 20 gold, 12 silver, and seven bronze medals.
Feeding the Community
The Department served more than 50,000 meals to children, seniors and families through a variety of programs, including the Summer Food Program, Congregate Meal Program, and School Year Snack and Supper Program.
Shining on Stage
Fleetwood-Jourdain Theatre was nominated for seven Black Theatre Alliance/Ira Aldridge Awards and produced the world premiere of “Black Ballerina,” which sold out all shows.
More than 600 students were employed through Mayor Hagerty’s Summer Youth Employment Program. Fifteen youth were trained on the principles of nonviolent conflict resolution at the 2nd annual Addie Wyatt Center for Nonviolence Training Kingian Summer Institute.
Northlight Theatre rendering
Promoting Economic Vitality
City Council approved a planned development for a 289-seat Northlight Theater performance venue, paving the way to bring the renowned theater back to Evanston. In 2019, 87 new businesses opened their doors, helping the city maintain a 4 percent retail vacancy rate and 6 percent office vacancy rate, lower than the City of Chicago and north suburbs. Two new special service areas along the Central Street commercial corridor were established, supporting beautification projects, marketing, and programming.
The City partnered with CTA on the Red Purple Modernization Project study. An amended contract with Lyft, operator of Divvy Bike Share, was negotiated, resulting in no cost to the City with significant enhancements, including 90 electric-assist bikes with “lock-to” functionality and integration with Ventra card and the Lyft app.
$2.8 million was directed towards the City’s Affordable Housing Fund, and 15 new affordable units were established at the Albion development. Planned developments were approved for a 60-unit senior housing facility on Howard Street, and a new YWCA domestic violence shelter. Zoning restrictions were updated to encourage more accessory dwelling units.
More than 6,200 building inspections were completed and 3,710 building permits were issued in 2019, generating $4.3 million in revenue.
Citywide 6th Grade S.T.E.A.M. project showcase at ETHS
Improving Sustainability and Resilience
The City continued to make progress towards its Climate Action and Resilience Plan (CARP) goals. The Sustain Evanston business recognition program was launched, recognizing and assisting 17 local businesses in making climate-friendly improvements. The City secured a $250,000 Partners for Places grant to remove barriers to climate-resilient affordable housing. An air quality study was conducted surrounding the Church Street Waste Transfer Station.
Supporting Arts and Culture
$45,000 in grant funding was distributed to support local artists and arts organizations in coordination with the Evanston Arts Council. Repairs were completed to the Dempster Street viaduct mural.
Equity and Empowerment
With the adoption of the 2020 Budget, Evanston became the first city in the nation to approve funding for a local reparations program. The City conducted a comprehensive review of social services, utilizing public input to improve service delivery and outcomes. A separate Human Services tax levy was adopted as part of the 2020 Budget to create a dedicated funding source.
Engaging with residents
The City collaborated with Downtown Evanston to host its first-ever Evanston Pride Fest. Mobile-friendly eNewsletter templates were implemented to enhance communications with residents. A citywide recycling education campaign was conducted to improve waste habits. The Office of Sustainability engaged with more than 500 residents at a variety of events, including waste reduction workshops, solar power hours, and a mobile “Experience Climate Change” exhibit.
A two-year budget process was implemented to aid long-term planning. The City also transitioned to an October through September Wheel Tax period to provide more convenience for residents and improve efficiency of City operations.
A young reader shows off his very first library card.
A Racial Equity Task Force was launched to identify barriers to services that exist across the community and to determine ways to reach underserved residents.
Providing Social Services
656 patrons received assistance with housing, employment, substance abuse, mental health and other issues.
Expanding Digital Literacy
Library staff conducted 363 one-on-one technology trainings and 176 group technology classes. Free internet service was provided to the community through the availability of 150 mobile Wi-Fi hotspots.
Serving the Community
The library welcomed 539,710 visitors in 2019.
- 6,312 new library cards were issued
- 1,191,600 materials were circulated
- 1,000+ teens were reached through the mobile library
- 1,000+ early literacy programs were provided for infants through preschool age children
- 3,564 residents participated in the Summer Reading Program
- 250+ STEM programs were offered
2020 and Beyond
Celebrating Evanston’s newest community center
In 2020, the City will celebrate the completion of the Robert Crown Community Center and Library project.
Decades in the making, the new facility will provide residents with a new library branch, gymnasium, indoor running track, two NHL-sized ice rinks, meeting rooms, multipurpose rooms, a childcare and education facility, artificial turf fields, and so much more.
Many City departments worked throughout 2019 to make this project a reality, including Public Works, Parks, Recreation & Community Services, the Evanston Public Library, Administrative Services, the City Manager’s Office, and more.
The facility is now open, and the community will celebrate its open house and invocation on March 14. Athletic fields will be completed following deconstruction of the previous center, with the entire project expected to be completed in August 2020.
Thank you to the many community partners and organizations who made this landmark project possible, including Friends of Robert Crown and the more than 1,000 residents who donated to support the project.