Evanston’s Fountain Square Rehab and Road Diet Is Creating a Great Public Space
The city of Evanston has recently been renovating and extending a plaza in the heart of its downtown, narrowing the streets around it, and making the area more walkable.The $5 million project, financed by the Washington National Tax-Increment Financing district and general obligation funds, is nearly complete.
The new section of the plaza extends south of Davis Street from the existing Fountain Square, a block east of the Purple Line’s Davis station. This section, which has been open to the public since last fall and has already been used as an event space, replaced a small landscaped median that separated Orrington and Sherman avenues. The new plaza is flush with the street and features movable outdoor seating and tables, plenty of bike racks, lighting, and young trees that will grow to provide shade for visitors.
When the northern end of the plaza is finished, it too will feature additional seating and benches near a renovated fountain. The previous fountains rose above the ground and were a rather uninviting place to sit. The new design is a zero-depth fountain with a veterans memorial at its north end.
When I visited over the warm Memorial Day weekend, the plaza was not being heavily used; people in the area seemed to prefer sitting at other nearby locations that provided more shade. However, as the trees mature, I assume more people will find the space more appealing in summer. Until then, it would be nice if the city could install some umbrellas or sail canopies over the tables to provide some relief from the sun.
The project features a shared-street concept with a road diet, slimming northbound Orrington from three lanes to one at its intersection with Davis. Southbound Sherman has also been narrowed near the plaza. The narrowing of the street should force drivers to slow down and respect other road users around the plaza. It’s always great to see projects plaza that take underutilized vehicle lanes and repurpose them for public use, as recently in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood, where a stretch of roadway was converted into a new plaza.
Evanston has been a local leader in safer street design and accommodating different modes of transportation in its street designs. In the downtown area alone, several streets have protected bike lanes, and protected lanes on were recently installed other main streets, such as Dodge Ave and Chicago Ave. (An attempt by Evanston Alderman Ann Rainey to have a stretch of the Dodge protected lanes removed was outvoted last month.) These improvements are proof of Evanston’s commitment to creating safer streets and a more pleasant environment for residents and visitors.
This post is made possible by a grant from Freeman Kevenides, a Chicago, Illinois personal injury law firm representing and advocating for bicyclists, pedestrians and vulnerable road users. The content belongs to Streetsblog Chicago, and Freeman Kevenides Law Firm neither endorses nor exercises editorial control over the content.