Never underestimate the political pull of singing children.

Just a few days after announcing that he planned to boot the Evanston Children’s Choir from the Noyes Cultural Arts Center, City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz has reversed course.

At the request of Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl and aldermen he’s decided to come up with a new way of figuring out who should have to leave the building to make way for a proposed expansion of the Piven Theatre’s space there.

Bobkiewicz said he’d made the decision to ax the choir because the city had no established guidelines for who should have to leave the building and because the choir was the tenant with the least seniority.

The choir also blew a chance to lock in its space when it failed to quickly sign a new 10-year lease with the city approved by the City Council earlier this year.

Bobkiewicz told reporters Monday night that he’s a big fan of the choir, and has even played the role of Santa Claus in holiday productions staged by the group.

He seemed relieved that he’ll now get to come up with a new plan for who gets to stay.

Since the new criteria, as outlined by the mayor, are whether “an artist or arts organization is Evanston based and the number of Evanston residents served by the artist or arts organization,” it would appear that the Evanston-based, 100-member choir may stand a better shot at staying under those guidelines.

Update 10 p.m. 4/23/13: Bobkiewicz now says he misspoke when he said choir officials hadn’t signed the new lease. They had, but the lease contained a 60-day termination clause that could be exercised by either party.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Singing children

    OK..it's nice that the choir can stay…but who is going to be kicked out?

    "At the request of Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl and aldermen he's decided to come up with a new way of figuring out who should have to leave the building to make way for a proposed expansion of the Piven Theatre's space there."

    I predict that once this decision is made, the sound of singing children will be replaced by  the cacophony  of whining NIMBYs  complaining that they are being kicked out of the Noyes Cultural Arts Center…despite the fact that they have been there for years, they are 'longtime Evanston residents', and their families have been living in Evanston for 12 generations.  Perhaps they will also find a way to blame Northwestern.



  2. Create room for all by limiting theater’s expansion

    There would be room for everybody, including the Choir and including new paying artist tenants, if the City scaled back Piven's proposed expansion (they don't have a very full performance schedule). And I don't understand why all the tenants except Piven will be required to pay rent? I understand there are hundreds of thousands of dollars that will be lost each year because of the proposed changes…and to my view I don't think Piven merits this special handling any more than any of the other artists at Noyes (or dozens more groups throughout Evanston).

    As a taxpayer is this good use of our public buildings – let a building with potential to pay for itself, and create surplus for the City, get in the red to support one arts org?

  3. Piven proposal more poor economic development

    Giving the Piven Theater a  2.2 million dollar loan which has no collateral, other than building improvements to their space, with our tax dollar is not good business sense.  Wally is not getting any money to fix the building so what is the value in this deal to us taxpayers?

    Also their appears to be other deals here, such as free rent? 

    There is NO return here on our capital investment.

    Wally a few years ago claimed we could not borrow any money, since we were so in debt to make necessary capital repairs on our facilities so why would he give away 2.2 million in capital?

    Word is the Mayor does not want to lose Piven Theater, I say so what, if Piven can't get their own capital for the expansion in the private market let them leave, there is no loss to us taxpayer here!

    More screwed up economic development is not what we need.

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