Evanston’s new homeless house is getting closer to reality

Members of Evanston City Council last week showed strong support for a plan that would replace the current animal shelter with a new building, a milestone for the long-awaited project.

At the September 27 city council meeting, a number of council members voted in favor of a plan with mid-level costs, on three pre-design proposals presented to make improvements to the current building at 2310 Oakton St.

The Level 2 service plan, estimated to cost $ 6 million, calls for the replacement of the existing 2,750 square foot building, built in the 1970s, with a new 8,500 square foot structure.

The larger capacity would provide room for 48 dogs and 42 cats, compared to the 25 dogs and 26 cats the current facility can hold.

Level 2 category is associated with operational efficiencies, City Engineer Lara Biggs told Council at the meeting.

The current Evanston Animal Shelter, located at 2310 Oakton St., may be replaced. (Photo round table)

“We would increase the size of the building in order to have an exit port [secured entranceway], and it helps with transfers of impounded animals. So it is very useful for Cook County [staff members]. When they arrive with an animal, they can transfer that dog or cat to the cages. It will also be useful for our police department when we do impoundments.

“Plus we would add – expand medical facilities, she said. “This expansion of medical facilities would reduce the ongoing costs the Evanston Animal Shelter would have to have. It would also provide the possibility of community sterilization, sterilization and vaccination programs. The Evanston Animal Shelter Association has never provided these services in the past, so it might take a little while for them to start providing these services, but that would be a possibility with this level of service.

A long story

Plans for a new facility have been underway for a long time. In 2010, the City withdrew from a design plan to expand the facility to consider selling the site to a third party.

Originally built as a dog pound, the current facility lacks enough space to properly house dogs and cats, staff said.

A makeshift cat room in the current shelter. (Photo courtesy of Evanston Animal Shelter Association)

Other shortcomings include the lack of a separate admission area for animals that are deposited; no isolation area for sick dogs or cats; and minimal adoption facilities.

In a 2017 report to council members, staff reported that the building did not comply with building codes, had failing building systems, and needed a significant capital investment to stay operational.

Officials and supporters of the shelters began to move towards creating a new facility after Cook County awarded the city a $ 2 million grant to build an expanded shelter, housing some of the county’s animals . The City had requested $ 4.5 million.

To fund the project, the Evanston Animal Shelter Association, the large volunteer organization that runs the shelter on a daily basis, is offering to raise $ 1 million to go along with the county’s $ 2 million grant. The City would then assume all costs greater than $ 3 million.

Staff are expected to return to Council in a month with a proposal for an architectural services contract for the design of a new building.

Council members would then have a vote on whether to move the project forward.

Cost considerations raised

During the discussion at the September 27 meeting, some Council members expressed the need to see a more complete breakdown of total costs.

From some of the preliminary estimates from the preconception process, “It looks like we’re looking at a pretty high dollar amount per square foot,” said Clare Kelly, Council Member, 1st Ward. For now, “I’m not saying it’s not necessary, just understanding why it’s so high would be helpful,” she said.

Council member Devon Reid, 8th district, said he supported the project.

“I think we have a duty to ensure the well-being of all of our neighbors and the community, including our pet friends,” he said.

At the same time, he said: “I want to make sure that we are also financially responsible to our taxpayers. And so, I just want to make sure that we keep this within a fairly narrow range and that we don’t let the costs get out of hand, as has sometimes been the case in the past. “

He cited the Fountain Square project, where the City had to incur significant repair costs beyond the initial cost of the project.

Council member Reid also spoke about the need to have sterilization and sterilization services, as well as a veterinarian on site, especially for low-income pet owners who have to travel long distances to get these. services.

Regarding the environmental characteristics of the new building, council member Jonathan Nieuwsma, 4th arrondissement, said he was in favor of a turn “as green as possible”.

In addition, he expressed interest in the costs the City might incur initially to prepare the new building for solar energy, recognizing the savings the City would realize in the long run.

He also stressed the importance that officials build into ongoing maintenance costs “so that we don’t run into another Robert Crown [meaning the previous building] or Harley Clarke, where you’ve got 20 years with a nonprofit and we’ve got a run down building.

In this regard, he said, the City should do “whatever we can do to resolve this issue and ensure that maintenance funds are readily available, so that we are not caught off guard” .

Council member Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, highlighted the largely volunteer effort that is currently being deployed in the building.

“You know, it never ceases to amaze me that we have 150 volunteers for our animal shelter, and this one is essentially run by volunteers.

“There is clearly very strong support in the community. “

She said that although her wish is for the new refuge to be a [energy] building, this can be a difficult goal.

“We have a net zero [energy] building the Walgreens on Chicago Avenue here in Evanston, ”she noted,“ and I know it was very complicated and costing quite a bit at Walgreens. And it’s even more complex to build because… it’s closer, almost to a hospital in the sense of the air exchanges and the types of separation that are required.

She agreed that it is important to have sterilization and sterilization services at an on-site veterinary clinic.

In this way, she said, “not only do we have fewer unwanted pets, it also improves the health of all the pets we have in Evanston to have regular and affordable services.”

Council member Eleanor Revelle, 7th arrondissement, echoed Nieuwsma’s call to make the building as “green as possible”.

She also spoke in favor of having services on site.

“It seems to me that providing this surgical space and being able to offer vaccination and sterilization services to our residents is what will ultimately help ensure that we have fewer unwanted pets,” he said. she said, “and that’s really important. benefit the whole community.

Council member Cicely Fleming, 9th arrondissement, also stressed the importance of ongoing maintenance.

“You know the durability is great and all of those things, but also not having a building like this collapsing because we don’t have maintenance is also very, very important to me,” he said. she declared.

She said she would also be willing to forgo the 1% required for public art if that money was used for upkeep.

“I just think that the public art in front of the animal shelter is not necessary, especially as we are trying to make sure that the animal shelter has what it needs inside,” he said. she declared.

Council member Bobby Burns, 5th District, spoke about the efforts volunteers are currently making due to the limitations of the current building.

“I mean, they’re completely stretched out,” he said, using “closets and bathrooms and all kinds of things to try and make this space work,” he said, expressing its support for a new building.

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