Evanston’s Dawes Park Lagoon is scheduled to be renovated and renamed The Arrington Lakefront Lagoon after the City received a $500,000 private donation from The Arrington Foundation.
the philanthropy Wednesday afternoon by holding a press conference in front of the lagoon’s north end.
Illinois Rep. Robyn Gabel (D-18th) praised Arrington as an individual who greatly influenced the way state government is run in Illinois.
“He really was the father of the current system that we have in government today,” Gabel said. “He was the one who developed staff for people in Springfield, which, as you know, [are] so necessary."
Evanston Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl spoke at the event, lauding the donation and the renovation as an opportunity to celebrate Evanston’s history.
“This donation, in memory of W. Russell Arrington, will remind Evanstonians for generation of his role as a businessman, political leader, and loving father,” Tisdahl said. “Evanston has many fabulous people living in this community, and this is one part of that history, and we don’t do enough to celebrate the individuals who have made us what we are.”
Proposed renovations to the 30,000 square foot, man-made lagoon and the surrounding promenade include replacing valves, performing crack sealing and waterproofing, reconstructing the lagoon’s waterfall, stonework repair, widening the pavement surrounding the lagoon, installing new pedestrian lighting, and additional landscaping. City officials hope the changes will decrease water use, bring the facility into ADA compliance, increase operating safety and promote additional recreational activities.
In addition to the $500,000 donation, the City will likely put $100,000 of Capital Improvement Program funding toward the projects and has applied for an Open Space Lands Acquisition and Development grant through the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, which could bring in up to $400,000 extra.
Evanston City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz said that though renovations to the lagoon had been planned over a longer time frame, the private donation bumped it up as a higher priority on the list of City capital improvement projects.
“If we can leverage $100,000 of our own money into a $1 million project, that’s pretty good,” Bobkiewicz said. “Their family’s generosity allows us to go after even more money from the state because it provides for a greater match…If we get the full amount [from the state] we’ll move forward with the full project, and if not we’ll probably do [the improvements] in phases.”
Illinois Sen. Jeffery Schoenberg (D-9th), in attendance at Wednesday’s event, said he was working hard to secure the grant for Evanston and that the private donation would help this process.
“Well it’s a very competitive grant making process,” Schoenberg said, “but all things being equal, what makes this application unique and stand out is that it leverages $500,000 in private philanthropy to provide a significant enhancement to Evanston’s lakefront…I think that’s going to give the application a tremendous boost, and with resources being scarce, I’m going to make that extra effort to advocate for it.”
If Evanston receives the state grant and allocates capital improvement funds for the project, construction is expected to begin in the third quarter of 2013.
Michael Arrington, W. Russell Arrington’s son and President/CEO of The Arrington Foundation also spoke at Wednesday’s event.
The Dawes Park Lagoon sits near the intersection of Sheridan Road and Church Street. It has been used for the Evanston Environmental Association’s Duck Race and Pluck event in the summer and public ice skating in the winter.