Evanston aldermen tonight will be asked to spend up to $40,000 to develop designs for a planned theater building on Howard Street.
City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz says that after a request for proposals this spring identified six theater companies interested in moving to Howard Street, city staff has narrowed the field to two groups that “have the capacity to fundraise to complete a captial campaign to participate in funding the project.”
The proposed theater site is city-owned property at 717-723 Howard that includes a 4,000 square foot building and two vacant lots.
The vacant city-owned building at 721-723 Howard St. that may become a theater space.
The architect to be hired with the city funds would “develop conceptual and bid-level drawings” for the project, according to a memo to aldermen from Bobkiewicz, that would represent a “vanilla box” theater.
The memo, which doesn’t name the two theater companies, suggests that they could then retain their own architects to come up with more detailed designs suitable for their program and productions.
The memo says the plan envisions expanding from the existing building onto the vacant lots to provide a flexible theater space that could seat up to 150 people plus theater offices, dressing rooms, a box office/lobby/bar area and rehearsal, shop and storage space.
Advocates see the theater plan as part of an ongoing effort to revive the commercial district on Howard, which already has seen the opening of two restaurants in city-owned buildings nearby — with the theater expecte to, among other things, generate additional customers for the restaurants.
The memo prepared for tonight’s council meeting makes no mention of an estimate for the total cost of the new project or what proportion of the cost the chosen theater group would be expected to raise.
The memo says the $40,000 for the initial city-funded architectural work is to be taken from the Howard-Ridge tax increment financing district account and would be covered by rent payments already received from other city-owned properties on Howard.
Update 11:35 a.m. 9/22/15: Aldermen approved the plan to fund the design work for the theater on a 7-2 vote Monday night with aldermen Don Wilson, 4th Ward, and Brian Miller, 9th Ward, voting no. More detail on the discussion here.