Mission Statement: Downtown Evanston works together to create an economically and socially vibrant community where residents and visitors alike can build lasting memories.
In 1982, a group of concerned citizens came to City Hall and said “something needs to be done with downtown!” Looking at state statutes, the City had two choices, either to create a Downtown Development Authority or an Urban Renewal Agency. They chose the latter, and the Evanston Urban Renewal Agency (EURA) was born. The EURA quickly began to subscribe to the Main Street America (MSA) program, which aims to revitalize historic commercial districts through preservation-based economic development. The MSA program--started in the late 1970s/early 80s as a 'movement'--was a direct response to urban sprawl and the construction of malls and big box stores, which were devastating many historic downtowns across the nation. This movement now consists of more than 1,600 neighborhoods and communities-rural and urban-who share a commitment to place and follow a proven 4-Point Approach: 1) Organization, 2) Promotion, 3) Design and 4) Economic Vitality. These approaches, along with two chief strategies (family-friendly and outdoor recreation) work in harmony to craft a vibrant and dynamic historic downtown district. In 2007, EURA submitted an application to Wyoming Main Street to become a certified Wyoming Main Street Community, and in early 2008, Governor Freudenthal came to Evanston and officially welcomed the city into the Main Street America program.
In 1969, Evanston's downtown was referred to as a “Godforsaken Hole." There were no street lights, few trees, a couple of restaurants and bars, and several 55-gallon oil drums used as garbage cans. Downtown was a dark, dingy, and blighted area. After the first EURA coordinator Jim Davis attended a Main Street America workshop in 1988, things started to change. For over 35 years, the Urban Renewal Ball fundraiser was held for the purpose of preservation and revitalization efforts in the downtown and the Historic Roundhouse & Railyards site. In that time, nearly $2 million dollars was raised with the help of large contributors, such as Chevron USA, BP, and Rocky Mountain Power/Pacific Power. That funding has been used as seed money for projects and initiatives, as well as match money for large grants the URA/Main Street-Downtown Evanston has been awarded over the years.
Design and preservation projects have been the most transformative for Evanston’s Main Street and Historic districts, which overlap and encompass the area from 6th to 15th Streets and Front, Main and Center Streets. The first big preservation project was the rehabilitation and restoration of Depot Square. These nearly three blocks were donated to the City of Evanston in 1987 from Union Pacific Railroad. Today, the Square boasts a fully restored train depot, a replica of the original Chinese Joss House, heritage and Chinese gazebos, a renovated barn (Beeman-Cashin building), Carnegie Library (Chamber of Commerce and Uinta County Museum), water fountain, public restrooms, a basketball court, an English phone booth, Lincoln Highway marker, picnic area and an authentic Chinese garden.
Other major design projects have made downtown the inviting place it is today. They include the installation of Sternberg lights, street signs, benches and many beautiful trees and flowers. Along with these changes, new service and retail shops opened, new restaurants and bars arose, and several businesses were renovated and updated their facades. Today, Downtown Evanston is a vibrant place to live, work, shop, play and build lasting, positive memories.
These changes were followed by the stabilization and preservation of the 27-acre Historic Roundhouse & Railyards complex. The site includes a fully restored Machine Shop, (Patterson) visitor center, meeting room/Superintendent's Office, an operable turntable (one of a few on the UP mainline), and a partially renovated 4-section Roundhouse. All the restored buildings are available for public use and can be rented for a variety of events, including weddings, festivals, fundraisers, conferences, etc.
Other major projects downtown include Hotel Evanston and the Strand Theatre. The Hotel was preserved and partially restored with a new roof, windows, and exterior masonry to secure the building in the mid-2000s. EURA's focus shifted when the Strand Theatre suffered a tragic fire in 2007. The Strand was donated to the EURA in 2008 and has been a huge rehabilitation undertaking, but the lights went on and the doors opened in 2016. The project has been a work in progress, but the theatre now allows for movies, parties, stage productions, concerts, and more!
It can be said that life dramatically changed for Evanston when the Urban Renewal Agency was established, and again in 2008, when Evanston became a certified Main Street community providing access to a network of resources and support for continued growth. Together, the two efforts have brought new excitement and vibrancy to the downtown and have lead the way for both substantial aesthetic and economic enhancement.
Downtown Evanston is truly a remarkable and welcoming place!
Our Certifications & Awards
- Brenda Richins - Wyoming Main Street Innovation Award - 2019
- Ivory & Iron - Wyoming Main Street - 2018
- Fred Coles, former board member, Wyoming Main Street Volunteer of the Year - 2013
- US EPA Region VIII Excellence Award in recognition of perfect bacteriological compliance - 2001-2005
- Preserve Wyoming Certified Local Government Award - 2011
- Spirit of Service Award presented to Evanston Renewal Ball Volunteers -2008
- Wyoming Main Street Innovation Award - 2012
- Certified/Accredited Main Street Community since 2008 (yearly since 2008)
- Named a Great American Main Street Award Semifinalist for 2019 and 2020 (for practicing the Main Street 4-Point Approach, historic preservation and revitalization efforts)
Education/Training is ongoing...Attendance at Wyoming Best Practices Workshop
- Attendance at National Main Street Conference
- Attendance at Wyoming Main Street Monthly meetings/trainings
- Attendance at state Preserve Wyoming conference
- Attendance at Wyoming Economic Development Association conferences
- Transformation Strategies with Matt Wagner, National Main Street Center & Linda Klinck, Wyoming Main Street Program Director
- Strategic Doing with Darrin Wasniewski
- Attendance and hosted a Jon Schallert Workshop
- URA and Main Street America program training