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Aldermen reject Howard theater plan

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Evanston aldermen Monday night voted 6-3 to reject a plan to spend nearly $1.7 million to turn two vacant Howard Street storefronts into a theater.

Aldermen who voted against the project said they were concerned that the projected cost had nearly tripled from original estimates and that the city was still negotiating terms of a lease with the prospective tenant — the City Lit Theatre Company.

Alderman Coleen Burrus, 9th Ward, said she was willing to accept funding the project at the original estimated cost of $600,000, but couldn't support spending three times as much "on a single project on Howard when there's still so much more to do.

Alderman Jane Grover, 7th Ward, said she wasn't comfortable with the price tag — especially when it wasn't yet clear whether the city would be able to reach agreement with City Lit on terms to occuply the space.

Alderman Ann Rainey, whose 8th Ward includes Howard Street, defended the plan, saying City Lit has been in business since 1979 and last year sold 6,000 tickets to its performances.

She said she believes the theater group is committed enough and motivated enough to make the Howard Street project a success.

Alderman Mark Tendam, 6th Ward, said he'd like to support the project, but had heard a lot of unanswered questions about the project from residents of his ward and wanted more information before voting.

Despite suggestions from several aldermen that she might want to postpone the vote, Rainey opted not to delay a decision on the contract to renovate the space, and it went down to defeat.

Only aldermen Peter Braithwaite, 2nd Ward, and Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, joined Rainey in voting for the plan.

Top: A rendering of the now-rejected Howard theater plan.

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