Evanston city officials gathered this afternoon to walk through a storefront building at 1817 Church St. that once was planned to be an African-American history museum, but ended up back in city hands after the non-profit group chosen to turn the building into a museum failed to complete the work.

Walk through the building yourself in our photo gallery.

The building has roughly 5,000 square feet of space on three floors, but no elevator, making use of the upper floors for public functions difficult under federal disability rules.

After spending $170,000 to support the museum project, only to end up reclaiming the building in a state of disrepair, city officials have been somewhat stumped about how to find a viable use for the one-time veterinary hospital that has been designated a city landmark.

The city recently purchased two vacant two-flat buildings around the corner from the storefront, in the 1700 block of Darrow Ave., and Alderman Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, says she’s hoping for a comprehensive redevelopment of the block.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1.  What the heck?  We gave

     What the heck?  We gave how much money and what did we get?  City officials should be ashamed of themselves!  All this talk about laying off fireman and the city doesn’t have funds for this or that.  WOW!

  2. Where’s that guy who wants

    Where’s that guy who wants the Fine Arts District in the lake?

    Maybe he can figure out how to turn it into an Opera House.

  3. Move the Art Center to 1817 Church, Sell the Harley Clarke House

    How about we move the Evanston Arts Center to this building and sell the mansion on the lake (next to Lighthouse Beach) for millions. We could use some of the proceeds to fix up this building for the Arts Center and the rest of the proceeds to close our budget deficit or pay off our debt. I’m sure this decision would be controversial but no more so than raising people’s taxes or cutting vital services. Something has to give and selling non-essential property that the City owns is one way to address the financial mess we’re in.

  4. Audit the $ to EWCD

    The City Council paid over $170,000 in tax payer money and all it got was a run down building with a bad interior paint job and some murals.  The Council should do its duty and audit the block grant given to the Evanston Westside Citizens District.  Where did that money go?  Was this a scam?

  5. Evanston is not diverse – politically

    The city bought the building around 2001 for about $100,000, if I remember correctly. Then it gave the building and $170,000 to the Westside Group to build a museum.

    About seven years later, the city discovered nothing was done and the money gone, it took the building back. Since then, the city has been looking to give it away!!! Meanwhile, the city just purchased two buildings just to the east of 1817 Church building. One of those buildings has been on and off the real estate market for nearly five years.

    As Evanston struggles to balance a budget with declining tax revenue by closing branch libraries and laying off employees, it decides to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy two more buildings that didn’t sell on the open market? And what will the city do with these three buildings now? 

    Give them away?

    Remember this folks in November and beyond. I know I will.

    We need diversity in Evanston. Political diversity. Libertarians, Republicans, Green party members step up, please. Evanston needs you. 

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