Evanston aldermen tonight are scheduled to vote on awarding a $100,000 contract to study creation of a downtown performing arts district to a Chicago architectural firm.

The study, with half the funds paid for by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, is to be conducted by HBRA Architects, one of ten firms that applied to do the work.

Five city officials, joined by the executive director of Downtown Evanston and a co-chair of the Evanston Arts Council, reviewed the submissions and, according to a staff memo, unanimously agreed that HBRA was “exceptionally qualfied.”

The memo says HBRA’s team “demonstrated extraordinary expertise and insight on how districts for performing arts emerge and succeed.”

The city’s half of the funding for the study is to come in equpal parts from the Washington National Tax Increment Financing District and the city’s economic development fund.

Top: The former Varsity Theater building, oft proposed as the site for performing arts venues downtown.

Related document

The staff memo regarding the arts district study

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Stop spending my money!

    Every time I open the paper, it seems that our city council has found another way to spend MY money.


    We all want nice new spaces, wine bars, grocery stores, new waffle shops, 20 million dollar new shopping malls, and theater-  BUT NOW GET REAL!

    These projects DRIVE UP PROPERTY TAXES. 


    We are in the midst of a never ending recesssion. STOP SPENDING!

    The next election can not come soon enough.

    Vote them OUT- Keep Don Wilson, the only one who has any financial sense.






  2. Another ‘contract’ to waste taxpayer money

    If someone want to set-up another 'arts' building [you know it will fail and/or cost taxpayers $$$] let them fund the consultants, developers and budget—-not the taxpayers.  We are sky high in debt and 'arts' projects for the benefit of those who can sit at home all day while the rest of us work jobs to pay for their play time activities.


  3. $50,000 is granted

    $50,000 is granted from the National Endowment for the Arts… we should let that grant money go to another  community who sees benefit in diverse growth which includes the arts?  That austerity thinking of denouncing spending any money on development is working well for Europe, no???

    1. Still not free money!

      Why everytime the word 'Grant' is used, the assumptiion is we should get it and spend it.

      If some government body makes the 'grant' it is still coming out of somebody [really lots of somebodys] pocket as taxes—it is not off a money tree.

      If it is from some private firm or individual [for which they probably get a tax deduction which means tax payer subsidy] or someone giving with no deductiion, we should still be rejecting these projects that are not needed, usefull and if like the sculputers pure crap making an eyesore.  Maybe if the 'artsy' peoplle find enought cities rejecting these grants, they will realize they should be giving to something substantial like education, or food for the truely in need.

      Really tax deductions for 'charity' should only be for real charity like food/shelter for the needy or education/medical where the donor does not expect payback like a Board seat, building named after them.  Not gifts of art, art centers [like Kennedy Center or Noyes Center], etc. which play to the very few and many times to the very rich.

    2. Europe austerity hasn’t even happened yet

      Your idea that austerity in Europe isn't working is extremely premature, considering the austerity hasn't even fully gone into effect for an extended period. If the socialist French have their way, austerity will never happen at al -l- and we'll see what happens then as other people's money runs out.

      Look back in history to the actions of Margaret Thatcher.  See what happened after her austerity was allowed to fully take effect- the country boomed.

      Look to Indiana now, as Mitch Daniel's austerity measures have put the state back to fiscal health and business growth.

      Austerity results in short-term pain, but long-term growth. Our country, and our city government, needs a structural change. We need to stop paying public employees so much. We need to reduce pensions. The current system is completely unsustainable from every angle. Not making these hard changes will result in a country that sits in stagflation. Look at Japan as an example of this.

      Stop spending my money.


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