Search This Blog

Friday, October 23, 2015

Evanston, the Suburb That Tried to Kill the Car

This is a fantastic read from Mark Peterson at Politico on so many levels, and such fantastic news about Evanston. 

"What's striking about downtown Evanston is that it's missing cars. Or, more accurately, it’s missing a lot of cars. The local automobile ownership rate is nearly half that of the surrounding area."- Mark Peterson / Redux Pictures for Politico Magazine


At first glance, downtown Evanston, Illinois, doesn’t look revolutionary—just another a gentrifying urban core with the obligatory Whole Foods, the local organic sustainable restaurants serving $14 cocktails, the towering new, high-end luxury apartments filled with stainless steel appliances and granite countertops. The booming downtown feels increasingly hip; this summer it was featured as a “Surfacing” destination in the New York Times Travel Section. “I have everything here,” says Joanne McCall, pausing one evening on her way inside Sherman Plaza, a soaring, 26-story condominium building. “The post office, the dry cleaner, the movies, I work out upstairs, the Whole Foods is over there, the hair dresser over here. And the Uber thing is getting big here.”

It takes, in fact, a few extra minutes in the neighborhood to realize what’s different—and what’s missing. Downtown Evanston—a sturdy, tree-lined Victorian city wedged neatly between Lake Michigan and Chicago’s northern border—is missing cars. Or, more accurately, it’s missing a lot of cars. Thanks to concerted planning, these new developments are rising within a 10-minute walk of two rail lines and half-a-dozen bus routes. The local automobile ownership rate is nearly half that of the surrounding area.

Which again, may sound like so many other gentrifying urban areas. Who owns a car in Brooklyn, after all? But Evanston isn’t Park Slope—the city, now 75,000 strong, is quintessentially a suburb, somewhere to escape the density of nearby Chicago, a place to get extra room and, especially, a place to drive your car, jetting down Lake Shore Drive or the Edens Expressway to the Windy City. The houses in Evanston were so idyllic, in fact, that filmmakers came to use it as the beau ideal of postwar suburban life—it was where Hollywood came to film all-American suburban movies like Sixteen CandlesDennis the MenaceUncle Buck, and both Home Alone 2 andHome Alone 3.
And the whole point of the suburbs, reinforced by decades of local zoning laws and developers’ plans for a car-centric lifestyle, was that you weren’t supposed to live on top of your neighbor, that there was supposed to be plenty of parking everywhere you went and that you weren’t supposed to walk anywhere.

But Evanston had a different idea: What if a suburban downtown became a place where pedestrians ruled and cars were actively discouraged? As it turns out, what looks like normal urban gentrification actually marks the success of one of the most revolutionary suburbs in America. And its approach to development is fast becoming a model across the region—a model even embraced by its urban neighbor to the south, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Evanston, Chicago and their neighbors all now want to attract more people like Tyler Hauck, 27, who pays $2,200 a month for his 1½ bedroom apartment, which he says is “definitely a high-end” building close to one of the region’s transit lines. “On the neighborhood list serve, people say things like ‘You’re paying all this money and you don’t have room for a car?’”
Urban density got a bad rap sometime in the mid-19th century—nobody found any redeeming value in the overcrowded Victorian slums of London—and by the beginning of the 20th century, the Englishman Ebenzer Howard’s concept of the “Garden City,” a series of outlying satellite villages to a larger, established central city, became the dogma of city planners around the world.
In the United States, the concept of density was further discredited after World War II when its antithesis—suburban subdivisions with big lots, plentiful cul-de-sacs and large connector roads to move people from home to office park to shopping mall—became not just the norm but the ideal. Aided and abetted by the construction of the federally-funded Interstate Highway System and inexpensive Federal Housing Authority loans aimed at single-family homes for returning veterans, sprawl spread across the country like a wildfire.
Public transit ridership peaked in 1956, the same year that Dwight Eisenhower signed legislation creating the Interstate Highway System, whose original 41,000 miles helped funnel the country’s shift toward suburbia.

Over time, the building practices that facilitated the classic suburban lifestyle became codified in local zoning ordinances, meant to separate commerce and residential life, and in wonky documents like the Institute of Transportation Engineers’ Parking Generation manual, which lays out a rigid ratio for the number of parking spaces required by various buildings, and has long served as the bible for developers and local officials. 

The manual’s fourth and latest edition, published in 2010, includes the number of suggested parking spots for 106 separate land-use classifications, including mosques, synagogues, motorcycle dealerships, and coffee and donut shops with a drive-thru window and those without. It’s a well-meaning book, written by well-meaning people, but the assumptions and mind-set of Parking Generation and other documents like it wreaked havoc on post-war sprawl—pushing American cities ever outward, creating decades of investment in billions of dollars of ever-wider interstates, and contributing to a nation choked by car emissions and hellish traffic.

By the 1980s, even close-in American suburbs like Evanston were beginning to be hollowed out by sprawl, as their residents decamped for cheaper exurbs fueled by new shopping malls filled with big box stores.

Now, a half-century after the rise of the automobile transformed the American landscape, a new generation of urban planners is trying to reverse its dominance. “We treat our land as worthless when it’s not,” explains Yonah Freemark, pointing to a “dead” school bus sitting in a virtually empty parking lot almost directly underneath Chicago’s "L" train, as he walks along the city’s North Milwaukee Avenue.

Read more:

Share Your Thanksgiving Table


Share Your Table for Thanksgiving 2015 

The International Office (IO) at Northwestern University is proud to announce our Seventh Annual "Share Your Table for Thankgiving" Program! In the spirit of the upcoming holiday season, the IO seeks community members in the Evanston/Chicago areas to host international students, faculty, staff and their families for Thanksgiving dinner (November 26, 2015). 

Complete the form below so we can learn more about you and your family. We ask that you kindly sign up only if you are absolutely certain you are available to host.   

Participate in cultural exchange, make new friends, and introduce NU's international community to the great American holiday of Thanksgiving! 

Due to the popularity of this program, we cannot guarantee any specific matches between hosts and our international community.  

After signing up, Stephanie Cisneros will be providing continuous updates, and reminders. Information about specific host family and international pairings will be sent out approximately 1-2 weeks before Thanksgiving.  

Questions? Please contact Stephanie Cisneros at or 847-467-4025.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

A Bright Night for the Arts in Evanston

Come and celebrate Evanston's rich and diverse arts community with us! Tickets are $20. Featuring wine and tasty small bites. Mayor Tisdahl will present the Mayor's Awards for the Arts, and we will feature a few "Bright Spot" presentations on innovate and amazing projects taking place in the area.

Buy tickets at

Monday, October 12, 2015

Truly Collaborating at Hackstudio

Collaborating with the team at Hackstudio has been an incredibly eye-opening experience. No two days have been the same; every mind that arrives is unique and compelling; every interest is pursued authentically. 

Our grand opening on Nov. 5, 6-9p.m., will feature a gallery-like exhibit of what kids are working on here. Learn more about this amazing new program for kids in Evanston at

Thursday, October 8, 2015

This Sunday is Evanston Oktoberfest!

Evanston Oktoberfest will celebrate Evanston's craft breweries! Sample beer from Temperance, Smylie Brothers Brewing, Peckish Pig and Sketchbook Brewing. There will be plenty of delicious food available for purchase. Attendees will also enjoy live music, dancing, kids activities and more!

Evanston Oktoberfest runs from 1:00 to 5:00 pm for General Admission ticket holders and VIP ticket holders get early admission at 12:00 pm. Please note that all food is available for purchase so please bring cash. See below for additional ticket information. 

Evanston Oktoberfest will take place at the parking lot behind the Hilton Garden Inn located at 1818 Maple Avenue (also known as the Downtown Evanston Farmer's Market location).

Get your tickets:

Evanston Oktoberfest is hosted by Downtown Evanston, a nonprofit organization that manages and markets the downtown Evanston business district. Ticket sales help cover the event costs for the participating breweries and Downtown Evanston.

Special thanks to our sponsors:

Presenting (Barrel) Sponsor
e2 Apartments

Growler Sponsor
First Bank & Trust

Pint Sponsor
Hyatt House

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Open House Chicago Features 14 Evanston Stops!

For the first time ever, the Chicago Architecture Foundation's "Open House Chicago" will feature a community outside of the city's borders: Evanston! The free public festival, October 17-18, will offer behind-the-scenes access to 200 buildings, including 14 in Evanston. 

Learn more at or

Northwestern will feature several buildings too!

Northwestern University will participate for the first time in the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s popular Open House Chicago program Oct. 17 and 18.

Three historic buildings on Northwestern’s Evanston campus will be open to visitors: Alice Millar Chapel and Deering Library, which will be open both Saturday, Oct. 17, and Sunday, Oct. 18; and Dearborn Observatory, which will be open only Sunday, Oct. 18. Alice Millar Chapel and Deering Library will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 17, and from 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 18. Dearborn Observatory will be open from 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 18.

Open House Chicago is a free annual festival presented by the Chicago Architecture Foundation that offers behind-the-scenes access to more than 200 buildings across Chicago. For the first time, the festival will include sites in Evanston, including Sigma Alpha Epsilon’s Levere Memorial Temple, which is located next to Alice Millar Chapel, the Evanston History Center, several churches and FEW Spirits Distillery. A total of 14 sites will be open in Evanston.

“We’re proud to showcase some of the beautiful buildings on our Evanston campus,” said Alan Anderson, executive director of neighborhood and community relations. “Our campuses have a number of architecturally significant buildings, so we’re pleased that the Chicago Architecture Foundation has chosen to include these in this year’s Open House.”

Following are the Chicago Architecture Foundation descriptions of the Northwestern buildings that will be open: 
  • Alice Millar Chapel (1962). Architect: Edward Gray Halstead. At just over 50 years old, Alice Millar Chapel is a relatively young building. Its design marries a simplified Neo-Gothic form with stained glass that is unabashedly Modern. The 700-seat sanctuary has little ornament to distract from the bold, colorful abstract stained-glass windows that flood the sanctuary with an ever-changing light. The entire chancel wall is covered, floor to ceiling, in this glass -- a most unusual backdrop that highlights the uniqueness of the space. The windows are the work of Belgian-born designer Benoit Gilsoul. They were fabricated by the noted Willet Studios of Philadelphia. Vail Chapel is a smaller space linked by a colonnade to the east. It is a much more traditional sanctuary with intricate representational stained glass.
  • Deering Library (1932). Architect: James Gamble Rogers. On the edge of the great lawn at the heart of Northwestern's campus rises a monumental building by the master of Collegiate Gothic architecture. Its construction was funded by the Deering and McCormick families, who founded International Harvester. The library's mass and four short corner towers allegedly prompted Frank Lloyd Wright to disparage it as "a pig on its back." But you may disagree as you ascend the stairs from the heavy stone-and-timber entry corridor to discover a stunning reading room. Enormous arched leaded-glass windows flood the double-height space with light. The windows illuminate the intricately timbered ceiling and elaborate details in carved stone and wood throughout.
  • Dearborn Observatory (1889). Architect: Cobb & Frost. In 1889, this observatory was jointly constructed by Northwestern University and the Chicago Astronomical Society to hold what was then the world’s largest telescope. This original 18.5-inch telescope is still in use. In 1997, the old handcrank-operated dome was replaced with the current shiny aluminum cover with electric motor operation. In order to minimize vibrations, the core pillar on which the telescope stands is structurally isolated from the rest of the heavy stone structure below. The entire building was laboriously moved several hundred feet over a three-month period in 1939 to make way for a campus construction project.

Support Nichols Middle School Arts Programming

TEMPERANCE BEER COMPANY SOCIAL: Save the date! Come to Temperance Beer Company on Tuesday, November 10th (the day before Veteran’s Day) from 7-10 PM to mingle with other Nichols parents, enjoy light snacks, adult conversation and a cold brew or other beverage. The focus is on providing a fun, low-key opportunity for Nichols parents to relax and socialize. It’s also a no-pressure fundraiser to raise support for arts programs at our school, with opportunities to underwrite items for the new Makers Room and spring musical. Temperance is kindly donating a dollar for every pint of beer sold.  Come enjoy a night out at a great local spot!"

Monday, October 5, 2015

Alfonso “Piloto” Nieves Mural Dedication at Dewey Elementary

Fall Fiesta celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month – This Saturday, Oct. 10, 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.

Enjoy Latino music as you indulge in a tamale and horchata tasting with Dewey friends.  Bring your old costumes to share and grab a new one at the costume swap.  Kids can paint free miniature pumpkins and play relay games in the field.  Plan to buy your carving, decorative, and novelty pumpkins for the season from the Fall Fiesta!  Put October 10 on your calendar now, this is a free, community-building fiesta that you won’t want to miss!  And, it will feature the dedication of the mural created last school year by Dewey students and artist Alfonso “Piloto” Nieves (11:30).  Event volunteers are needed:  please contact Amy Nedoss, or Rebeca Mendoza,

FREE Talk by Julie Lythcott-Haims on How To Raise an Adult

FREE Talk by Julie Lythcott-Haims on How To Raise an Adult

Julie Lythcott-Haims, former freshman dean at Stanford University and the author of How to Raise an Adult, will be speaking (no cost) at Beth Emet (SW corner of Dempster and Ridge) on Thursday, Oct. 8 at 7:30 p.m.  Her book has been characterized as the Anti-Tiger Mom Manifesto and takes on schoolwork, sports, extracurriculars, college admissions, online school portals, chores, play, adolescence, and mental health.  Click here for the New York Times review.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Serious Sale!

This Saturday Harvey Pranian, Evanston's famous Art & Antiques dealer, is selling tons of interesting objects, 10a-5p, 1035 Wesley. He is occupying a yard, a gallery and an apartment with items. Bring your paycheck and prepare to shop your brains out!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

10.2.15: West Evanston Art Crawl

Six studios within six lovely blocks of Florence Avenue in West Evanston will be open and showing works by a variety of artists this Friday night!  Great art, interesting conversation and light refreshments (including Sketchbook Brewing samples at Adler George Studio and Space 900).

Alice George, at Adler George Studio 1125 Florence Avenue (Alice will be displaying an exhibition called “Metaphysical Comics,” collograph and mixed media prints inspired by comics & thinking about things).

Beth Adler, at Adler George Studio 1125 Florence Avenue (small works on paper)

Ausrine Kerr, at Ausrine’s Art Room, 1123 Florence Ave (on display: Ausrine’s latest oil paintings, sculptural felt pieces, Alvydas Pakarklis ceramic work, J. Crow oil paintings).

Jack Kraig 1532 Crain Ave (on display: Many new 6×8 framed  photographic images will be available.  Mandel bread plus sale items!)

Mill Creek Miniatures, 1127 Florence (displaying local artist Amy Woodbury displaying “Painting Utah”)

Space 900, 1042 Wesley Avenue (a visual arts collective)–a preview of Harvey Pranian’s “Big Sale” will be on display

Curt’s Cafe South, 1813 Dempster, will be displaying the work of Marcy Lichterman (opening night)

For a map and links to artist's websites visit