Evanston 1 of 10 vying for national award


EVANSTON — Evanston has been named as one of 10 semifinalists for the Main Street America 2019 Great American Main Street Award. The semifinalist status was formally announced on Tuesday, Aug. 21, on the Main Street America Facebook page and via a press release from Evanston City Clerk Amy Grenfell. 

Evanston Urban Renewal and Main Street program are now in the running to be named as one of the winners of the Great American Main Street Award (GAMSA), which will be announced in March at the annual Main Street Now Conference in Seattle. 

In the press release, Grenfell said, “To be a Great American Main Street Award semifinalist is a huge honor and we couldn’t be prouder. Jane Law and the Evanston Urban Renewal Agency Board of Julie O’Connell, Leslie Lunsford, Kimberly Chapman, Brian Davis and Maria Escalante have worked very hard to make this national recognition happen. Many kudos also need to go to Jim Davis who led the charge and had the vision for so many years.” 

Urban Renewal Coordinator Jane Law said the semifinalist designation itself is a “huge, huge honor.” She said Evanston’s downtown preservation efforts played a pivotal role in the semifinalist status. “We’re known around the state for our preservation efforts,” she said. 

According to the press release, criteria for the award include strength of the community’s Main Street program “in creating an exciting place to live, work, play and visit; commitment to historic preservation; implementation of model partnerships; and demonstrated success of the Main Street approach.” 

The Facebook announcement on Main Street America read, in part, “Things weren’t always on the right track,” and said the community has “transformed downtown from what one visitor described as a ‘God forsaken hole’ in the ’60s, into an inviting, welcoming place.” 

The announcement touted preservation projects including the Strand Theatre and Depot Square as well, and said, “Evanston also celebrates the many cultures that make up its past, present, and future, with Chinese New Year parades, Cinco de Mayo celebrations, and Celtic festivals.” 

Evanston Mayor Kent Williams said the recognition is a great honor for the city and “hard work by the Urban Renewal Board is very much appreciated.” City council member Wendy Schuler said the designation is a “huge accomplishment for Jane Law, the Urban Renewal Agency, Evanston Main Street, our historic preservation board and all those who helped with the process. Just to be named a semifinalist is a ‘feather in the cap’ for the entire city of Evanston.” 

City councilman Dave Welling said the designation is reflective of our community.

“I believe if you have a great Main Street you have a great community, and we are on the right track to make Evanston even better,” he said.

Law said the application process was intense and required a great deal of work in a short time — the Urban Renewal Board began working on the application on June 5 and submitted it less than two weeks later. She said many communities go through the application process multiple times before being recognized and it’s thrilling that Evanston has gotten this recognition “right out of the gate.” 

In addition to the Urban Renewal Board, Law acknowledged the assistance of former Wyoming Main Street director Mary Randolph, who helped with the application process and has been “a great friend to Evanston.” 

Other communities named as semifinalists include Portland, Oregon; Boyne City, Michigan; Chillicothe, Missouri; Ellensburg, Washington; Hammond, Louisiana; Tulsa, Oklahoma; San Marcos, Texas; Wausau, Wisconsin; and Wheeling, West Virginia.

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