Excitement Builds for New Library Branch

From Evanston RoundTable, April 19, 2017:

Excitement Builds Around New Library Branch at Crown Center

By Mary Helt Gavin

The newest branch of the Evanston Public Library, part of the new Robert Crown Center, is in the active planning stage, with preliminary drawings, community input, and excitement and planning on the parts of the Library Board and staff.

“Things that you hope we would hear [from the community], we’re beginning to hear,” Library Director Karen Danczak Lyons told the RoundTable in an interview that included Library Board President Michael Tannen.

The new 128,000-square-foot Robert Crown Center will have two ice rinks; spaces for fitness, dance, yoga and other recreation; indoor and outdoor fields and courts; and – like only one other sports facility in this country – its very own branch of the library. “One would think that a library and a sports facility would be a natural fit,” said Mr. Tannen, “but there are only 20 in Canada and one other in the United States.”

“This will be the first branch that’s constructed like a branch,” Ms. Lyons said. During her tenure with the Chicago Public Library, she was on teams that oversaw the renovation or construction of 54 branch libraries.

Programming and Space

Although there will be discrete areas for its many planned programs, the building will be conducive to mingling, watching, and chatting. One concept is to have a walking track above and around one of the rinks. Other areas are for “warm-side viewing” of the ice activities – glass-walled lounging areas outside the rinks.

With the opportunities for exercise – sports, dance, fitness, yoga, etc. – and quiet intellectual pursuits, people can develop mind and body in one space, Ms. Lyons said.

Although the planned hours of operation of the center – 5:30 a.m. to 1 a.m. – are more extensive than those for the branch library, “We want to serve even when we’re closed,” Ms. Lyons said. She envisions kiosks to dispense books, CDs, and movies through the use of the library card.

All ages will be welcome. “Sometimes it will feel like it’s a senior citizens’ library, sometimes, a children’s library,” Ms. Lyons said. “We can push book stacks out of the way – and it will look like a different library.”

Carts with laptops can be rolled out for multiple users – rather like a cart with trays in a school lunchroom – and the laptops themselves may be available for checkout.

In summer, the sliding glass doors to the outside could be opened so patrons can step out into a reading garden, which could also be used for storytelling to children. The landscaping will add to the ambience of an active, light-filled, bustling center, she said.

Ms. Lyons also said one idea is to create a special Robert Crown Library card to welcome new patrons, which would be good at all the branches and the Main Library, as well.

Noting the proximity of Washington, Dawes, and Chute schools, as well as Evanston Township High School, Mr. Tannen said, “This will fill a gap on the west side.” He also said he believes the new center and library could attract Northwestern University students not only to use the facility but to volunteer there as tutors for student Library patrons.

Ms. Lyons said she hopes some of the programs offered through the Main Library, such as the free tax-preparation service provided by the Center for Economic Progress and the career counseling offered by National ABLE (Ability Based on Long Experience) Network would establish satellites at the Robert Crown Branch.

The tax-preparation program is an example of the Library’s successful partnerships, Mr. Tannen said. “Last year the volunteers – who prepare tax returns for families with incomes of less than $55,000 and individual with incomes of less than $30,000 – netted about $750,000 in refunds.”

 “We couldn’t do what we do without the community partners and the leadership of the Board and staff… We keep the focus on our families, on how we can help them. … We have a great partner with the City departments as well,” Ms. Lyons said.

Ms. Lyons sees the common spaces as more than access to the rooms that house various activities. “She sees the lobby as an agora,” Mr. Tannen said. “It’s a place for people to connect, converse,” Ms. Lyons said. Focusing on the wide stairway to the second floor, she said she envisions it as tiered seating for lectures or concerts as well as the more pedestrian access to the upstairs.

Ms. Lyons said the Library staff would work with the Robert Crown staff when Library programs could use extra space. “I don’t want to negotiate every week or have staff go hat in hand to beg space for at the last minute. There’s got to be room for everybody.”

Funding

“The Library Board felt so strongly we could build this library that it has committed to paying $2.5 million toward the building.  … We are building in a maintenance fund, based on the lifespan of the equipment.” Mr. Tannen said.

The City will issue all the bonds necessary, and the library will repay its share, Ms. Lyons said. Of course, donations on any level are still welcome, she added.

Michael Happ, Campaign Director for the new center, wrote in an email response to a RoundTable question on the timeline for the new facility, “The current intention is to begin construction in spring 2018 and complete all work by fall 2019.” 

A Bit of History

City approval for construction of a new branch library is an about-face from 2011, when the City closed the South Branch Library, and there was talk about closing the North Branch as well. Many people who had tried to save the South Branch opened the Mighty Twig, a privately run lending library at 900 Chicago Ave., which is now the site of the Chicago Avenue/Main Street Branch of the Evanston Public Library (CAMS).

The group that coalesced into Evanston Library Friends helped fund and staff the Twig. In 2012, the City hired Ms. Lyons as Library Director, and CAMS opened in 2013.

Like many other institutions in Evanston, the Library Board has decided to honor retiring City officials Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl and Fifth Ward Alderman Delores Holmes.

“Although Ald. Holmes was at first not on board with saving the two branch libraries and creating a third, she came aboard so strongly that the Board decided to name one of the new rooms after her,” Mr. Tannen said. The Board also plans to endow a scholarship to study library science in the name of Mayor Tisdahl.

Mr. Tannen, whose happiness about the new Library branch, the Library itself, and the Library Board, was evident throughout the interview, said, “If five or six or seven years ago you would have told me we’d have a world-class Library director and could be building a crown jewel on the west side, I would have thought you were dreaming.”

Wintrust Bank Announces $500,000 Pledge for Reimagined Robert Crown Center

Multi-year Commitment Vaults Campaign Past $7 Million Mark

EVANSTON, IL – (March 23, 2017) – The campaign to build a new Robert Crown Community Center, Turf Park, and Library has secured a transformative $500,000 sponsorship commitment from Wintrust Bank. 

This major gift from one of the Chicago area’s most well-known and widely respected corporations provides the latest evidence of the project’s increasing momentum. The initiative has now officially raised more than $7 million in gifts and pledges, all before architects have even finalized a design for the new facility and park.

“We’re proud to give back to an organization that does so much for our community,” said Bill Lynch, president and CEO of Wintrust Bank. “As a community bank, we’re dedicated to bettering our local area. By supporting Robert Crown, we can give our kids another place to learn, have fun and grow. That’s something we’re really excited be a part of.”  

“We couldn’t be more grateful for Wintrust’s incredible generosity, vision, and leadership,” said Daniel Stein, Board President of the Friends of the Robert Crown Center. “With this gift, they have declared for all to see how committed they are to Evanston’s families and institutions. We look forward to partnering with Wintrust to strengthen our community for years to come.”   

Wintrust’s gift will be spread over multiple years and will be recognized with a prominent naming opportunity within the new community center building or the exterior park. The specific opportunity will be determined after the project’s architects complete their preliminary design. 

Wintrust Bank is a group of community banks located in Chicago and the northern suburbs, part of the larger family of Wintrust Community Banks spread across the Chicagoland area. The banking locations provide customized financial solutions for residents and businesses in Chicago, while supporting the neighborhoods each serves. Member FDIC and Equal Housing Lender. A statement on Wintrust’s website summarizes the bank’s longstanding philosophy of community participation: “We believe a bank should be a good neighbor; friendly, helpful and generous. That bank should become an important part of the community, help it solve its problems and plan for its future." The bank may be visited online at www.wintrustbank.com and www.facebook.com/wintrustbank. 

Crown Center Campaign Event Raises Over $1.2 Million

Fundraiser Honors Blackhawks Owner Rocky Wirtz, Kicks Off Public Phase of Campaign

EVANSTON, IL – (February 28, 2017) – It was a million dollar night—and then some. Building Evanston’s New Crown Jewel, a celebratory fundraising event held Friday, February 24 at the Evanston Art Center, exceeded all expectations by raising over $1.2 million for a reimagined Robert Crown Community Center, Turf Park, and Public Library.

The event, which was emceed by ABC-7’s Ravi Baichwal, featured the presentation of a special “silver shovel” award to Rocky Wirtz, Owner and Chairman of the Chicago Blackhawks. Mr. Wirtz thanked the overflowing and energetic crowd, and spoke of the power of youth sports and recreational facilities in building strong communities. The program also included remarks from Evanston Public Library Director Karen Danczak Lyons and a video showcasing the impact of the project for a variety of community constituencies.

“On behalf of the Chicago Blackhawks, we are proud to be here tonight to support this project, and what it will mean for the Evanston community and the expansion of youth hockey opportunities for kids throughout the region,” said Mr. Wirtz. “While we cannot say that every kid will make it to the NHL, we can say that if not for community rinks, they wouldn’t have the opportunity to try.”

 “We will transform the new Robert Crown Center into a place that develops the whole self: mind, body and spirit,” said Ms. Danczak Lyons. "We have diverse interests and backgrounds, diverse needs and goals. But we are one community, coming together to work, play and learn in our new Crown jewel."

Revenue from the event’s ticket sales, sponsorships, live auction items, and other donations totaled $613,500. With every dollar the campaign raises currently being matched by an anonymous matching grant, the total amount the event generated was $1,227,000. The campaign has been actively soliciting gifts against the major matching commitment since securing it last year.

Friends of the Robert Crown Center (FRCC) is the community group spearheading fundraising efforts to build a new $30 million Robert Crown Library, Turf Park and Community Center in a public-private partnership with the City of Evanston and the Evanston Public Library. FRCC is a nonprofit charitable organization formed in 2016. Its application for IRS 501(c)(3) designation is currently pending, and the organization is permitted to solicit and receive gifts during this review period. All contributions to the Friends of the Robert Crown Center are tax-deductible. The City of Evanston and the Evanston Public Library have available bond financing of $10 million and $2.5 million respectively, leaving $17.5 million to be raised through private donations, sponsorships, and institutional program partnerships.

The Robert Crown Community Center in Evanston, Illinois, was built in 1974. Its construction was largely funded by a significant lead donation from The Crown Family. The center serves as a venue for dozens of sports, including hockey, speed skating, figure skating, soccer, football, lacrosse, and basketball. It also hosts summer camps, preschool activities, tutoring initiatives, lunch and nutrition programs, community meetings, and other public services. The Crown Center is the City of Evanston’s most used health and wellness facility.

Northwestern University Announces $1 Million Investment in Reimagined Robert Crown Center

Programmatic Partnership Agreement Vaults Initiative Past $5 Million Mark, Sets Stage for Design Process and Public Campaign

EVANSTON, IL – (February 1, 2017) – The campaign to build a new Robert Crown Community Center, Library Branch, and Turf Park has secured a transformative $1 million commitment from Northwestern University. The landmark agreement represents a critical alliance among the University, the Friends of the Robert Crown Center, the City of Evanston, and the Evanston Public Library. It also provides overwhelming momentum for the community-wide fundraising initiative the Friends organization is currently leading.

 
 

In their letter informing the Friends of their decision, Northwestern representatives delivered a robust endorsement of the Crown Center project, declaring the center and park to be “a hub of programs and activities that has greatly enhanced our Evanston community for decades.” The university expressed confidence that the investment “will strengthen [the Crown Center’s] social and recreational offerings and have a positive impact on the programs available to the entire community.”

Northwestern will make its investment in the form of a programmatic partnership agreement, rather than a charitable gift, and will distribute the committed funds in three payments over three years. In exchange for this support package, the university will receive a slate of facility usage time slots and activities.

Nim Chinniah, Executive Vice President for the University, said “Northwestern is proud to make this investment to support the redevelopment of the Robert Crown Center. We look forward to working together to best serve our community.” Under the leadership of President Morton Schapiro, Mr. Chinniah was among the agreement’s key architects, along with Executive Director for Neighborhood and Community Relations Alan Anderson.

“When the original facility was built, the vision was for a special shared resource that would reinforce the bonds that hold families together,” said Friends Board President Daniel Stein. “With this investment, Northwestern University has modeled that same sort of visionary leadership. In joining with us now in this critical initiative, the university is fostering that same spirit of community and enabling that bold vision. We are immeasurably grateful for Northwestern’s leadership and support, and we are delighted to be working with them to help serve and strengthen the families in our community.”

Alderman Donald Wilson, whose 4th Ward includes the Crown Park, echoed Mr. Stein’s sentiment. “I am very grateful for the commitment that Northwestern University has made to our community,” said Alderman Wilson. “The Crown Center project will not only enhance the recreation opportunities available in Evanston, but the community center will make a number of resources and opportunities accessible to a geographic segment of our community that has been underserved. With the help of Northwestern and all of the donors and partners, the Crown Center will help build a stronger community for generations to come.”

With Northwestern’s program investment, the campaign has now officially raised over $5.5 million. The campaign’s progress to date is atypical in that it has successfully raised millions before planners have provided an actual design for the new building and park. Campaign leaders point to this as evidence of the community’s overwhelming desire to see the Crown project come to fruition. Spurred by this promising early fundraising success, the design process is now fully underway. After a thorough selection process, the city has entered an agreement with architectural firm Woodhouse Tinucci to produce the design. The firm has informed city and volunteer leaders it has already begun to develop initial design concepts.

The Our Community, Our Future campaign began its initial planning phase in March 2016 following an extensive feasibility study in the autumn and winter of 2015 and 2016. Its objective is to raise the necessary funds to create a completely new, modern community center on the current Crown Park property, including a new branch of the Evanston Public Library. The project also includes a re-envisioning of the park’s entire layout as well as the addition of artificial turf fields. Estimates have placed costs at approximately $30 million. The City of Evanston and the Evanston Public Library have available bond financing of $10 million and $2.5 million respectively, leaving $17.5 million to be raised through private donations, sponsorships, and institutional program partnerships. Campaign activity during 2016 focused primarily on private solicitations of potential sponsor organizations and families able to consider major gift requests. The campaign plans to increase public outreach in 2017, expanding activities to include mail and online communication as well as community events.

The campaign is led by a Campaign Executive Cabinet, which includes board members of the Friends of the Robert Crown Center, city and library officials, leaders of interest and advocacy groups, and local community members. The campaign is directed by CCS, a leading global fundraising consulting and management firm that provides fundraising, development services, and strategic consulting to nonprofit and civic organizations worldwide. For more information, contact Campaign Director Michael Happ at mhapp@cityofevanston.org.

Friends of the Robert Crown Center is a nonprofit charitable organization formed in 2016. Its application for IRS 501(c)(3) designation is currently pending, and the organization is permitted to solicit and receive gifts during this review period. All charitable contributions to the Friends of the Robert Crown Center are fully tax-deductible. The mission of the Friends is to solicit, hold, manage, invest, and expend endowment funds and other gifts, grants, and bequests exclusively for the benefit of the Robert Crown Community Center in Evanston, Illinois and the programs, activities, and services it hosts and provides. This mission extends and applies to the entirety of Crown Park, and well as the library branch to be included in the new community center building. All charitable gifts to the campaign and program investments in the project, excepting commitments from the City of Evanston and the Evanston Public Library, will be received, held, and expended by Friends of the Robert Crown Center.

The Robert Crown Community Center in Evanston, Illinois, was built in 1974. Its construction was largely funded by a significant lead donation from The Crown Family. The building and surrounding park have long served as an important social and recreational hub for Evanston and the North Shore. The Crown Center serves as a venue for dozens of sporting activities, including hockey, speed skating, figure skating, soccer, football, lacrosse, and basketball. It also hosts summer camps, preschool activities, tutoring initiatives, lunch and nutrition programs, community meetings, and many other public services. The Crown Center is the City of Evanston’s most used health and wellness facility.