The Evanston Art Center’s executive director told aldermen Monday night that the center has found a likely new home.

Norah Diedrich says the center has obtained an option to purchase a retail and office building at 1717 Central St. in Evanston and is conducting a due diligence review before deciding whether to commit to purchase the property.

The 15,000 square foot building is slightly smaller than the art center’s current roughly 16,000 square foot space at the city-owned lakefront Harley Clarke mansion.

But Diedrich said it will be able to accommodate all the center’s current programs, except the metalworking studio, and will let the center add culinary, design, film, music and other programs to its offerings.

The property includes a parking lot for about 36 cars. It’s located a block east of the Central Street Metra station and a little over a half mile west of the Central Street CTA station.

Diedrich said she hoped the metalworking studio could be combined with a new woodworking shop at another location in the future.

She said the center will need to raise $2.5 million to fund the building purchase and that more information about the fundraising effort would be available soon on the center’s website.

The 1717 Central St. building, constructed in 1950 in what Diedrich describes as a midcentury modern style, was formerly the headquarters of a collection agency called The Bureaus Incorporated, which has relocated to Northbrook.

Property taxes on the building now total more than $118,000 a year, income to local taxing bodies that presumably will be lost if the non-profit art center takes over the building.

The City Council recently voted to terminate the art center’s long-term $1 a year lease on the lakefront mansion and is in the midst of negotiating a deal for a unit of the state department of natural resources to lease and pay for renovations to the building.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Evanston Plaza
    Why a nonprofit like this would want to enter the real estate business is beyond me but that’s their prerogative.

    There is a temedous amount of space at the Evanston Plaza to lease, with ample parking and public transit to boot.

    1. tired of being jerked around

      Perhaps after being suddenly booted out of their home after 48 years, the EAC does not want to be subject to the whims of a fickle landlord. Owning a building means that they can invest in infrastructure improvements to meet their unique needs with out having to worry that they will have to suddenly move and lose their investment. For new businesses — buying is almost always the wrong choice as it is difficult to predict growth rates, etc. But the EAC has a long enough history that they can estimate their needs with much greater accuracy. 

      1. Laughable

        Fickle landlord?!  $1 RENT for decades… Your point is comical.

        Kicked out?  It should have been done years ago; they took advantage and are now leaving us with a bill for millions to renovate.  Thanks for your contribution EAC.

        This oversight with this tenant at $1 rent is just another example of how ineffective our City and elected officials are.

        Almost as rich as this was the purchase of new theatre seats for a tenant thousands of dollars past due in rent to the City.

        1. We need the complete story on Next Theatre
          Our council approved to sign an agreement for Next Theatre to pay back the rent that is past due for $75,000, On top of this they continued the rent agreement until next year, if my calculations are correct the city agreed to another $38,000 or so in rent.

          One has to wonder how Wally is accounting for this in the Rec department budget, is he booking it as revenue? Also he wants all department to cut their budgets 3%. More budget monkey business,

        2. new theatre seats
          Seating for the City of Evanston’s Noyes Theatre was installed for the community at large. The Noyes Theatre accomodates several groups in the area including Fleetwood-Jourdain Theatre, talented group they are! #fjtheatre.com #cleancomfyseats #ada

        3. A different way of looking at it

          I took the reference to 'fickle landlord' to one in the future, not to the city in the past. The EAC wants to have confidence that its customized improvements won't be lost to a new tenant should it lease run out or the organization find itself having to move again. And without getting into particulars, many cities 'invest' in the cultural support of citizens by funding organizations such as the EAC, just as parks are maintained as part of the public good. $1/year was great rent, but not a lot different than how other cities look upon the value of supporting such groups. 

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