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Brewery and theater projects advance

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Two economic development projects for south Evanston moved forward this week over the objections of Alderman Brian Miller, 9th Ward.

The City Council introduced a plan to lease the former city recycling center on Oakton Street to Smylie Brothers for a brewery, tap room and beer garden.

And it authorized the city manager to sign a memorandum of understanding with Theo Ubique to lease a city-owned storefront on Howard Street for use as a cabaret theater.

Miller objected to plans for the city to build a parking lot on land it owns between the recycling center and the animal shelter, saying “we’re kidding ourselves if we think this is for James Park.”

But Alderman Ann Rainey, whose 8th Ward includes both project sites, said there’s been a shortage of parking around the park for years and the new lot would benefit families going to soccer practice and other events in the park as well as patrons of the animal shelter and the nearby sports dome, as well as customers at the brewery.

Assistant City Manager Marty Lyons said revenue from the pay-station lot would cover the roughly $850,000 cost of creating the lot over the 20-year term of bonds issued to pay for it.

Rainey said Smylie Brothers “could expand to Skokie instead” and will be paying $13,000 a month to the city for the recycling center site,

Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, said the proposal was “a good, active reuse” of a vacant property and would bring more retail activity to the community. “This is a perfect example of how we should spend our money,” Wynne added.

The vote to introduce the brewery lease was 8-1, with Miller casting the only no vote. The lease is scheduled for final approval at the Council’s Dec. 12 meeting.

When the theater project came up for discussion, Miller said he had doubts about whether Theo Ubique could raise the $204,000 that is to be its contribution to the cost of converting the storefront buildings.

Miller, who is one of four candiates seeking to become the city’s next mayor, said Theo Ubique, which now stages its plays at the No Exit Cafe space in Rogers Park, has never raised anywhere near as much money in the past.

The plan calls for the city to pay $1.4 million toward the project cost — with that money to come from the Howard Ridge tax increment financing district.

Miller cast the only no vote on the theater project. The theater plans will return to Council for final approval after further negotiation between the theater group and the city.

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