Evanston aldermen tonight are scheduled to approve a lease of a city-owned building at 721-723 Howard St. to become the new home of the theater company Theo Ubique.

The lease calls for a ten year initial term with four five-year renewal options. Rent would be $42,000 a year for the first three years and the theater group is to make six payments totaling $204,450 to the city to cover a portion of the cost of renovating the building.

The cost of the renovation project has been estimated at roughtly $1.4 million.

A diagram of the proposed layout for the new theater space on Howard.

Theo Ubique, which has been in operation since 1997, currently performs at the  No Exit Cafe at 6970 N. Glenwood in Chicago. It offers a cabaret style theater experience. The new space in Evanston would roughly double the theater group’s seating capacity to 86.

The aldermen tonight are also scheduled to approve a contract with Ross Barney Architects for $150,455 to provide architectural services for the project.

The project will be funded from the city’s Capital Improvement Program and the Howard Ridge TIF is to issue debt and pay the debt service costs for the project.

The City Council last November authorized the city manager to negotiate the agreement with Theo Ubique.

Related stories

Brewery and theater projects advance (12/1/16)

EDC backs Howard theater plan (1/18/16)

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. No money for Harley Clarke but $1 mil+ for small theater group?

    Am I reading this correctly that this theater group previously had 40 some seats in their theater but the city is betting/spending more than $1 million to renovate this space for them??? Also, will they make the $40,000 payment per year? Meanwhile, Harley Clarke, a city treasure that can be used for city programs and that the people clearly supported can’t even get the $500,000 and then $250,000 promised by it? Don’t tell us there is no money for this while creating another Chicken and Waffles situation. Let’s please preserve the things we love about this town before betting away money on another chancy project.

    1. This is a prime example of

      This is a prime example of our city council caving into the Anne Rainey wish list. Ridiculous use of city funds that will never see a profit from this endeavor.

      1. TIF Funds

        Those of us who live under Rainey Rule in south Evanston refer to the TIF funds as her personal slush fund. When it comes to winners and losers, she is the decider. If you don’t like it and actually voice your opinion during a meeting (as several residents did regarding the brewery being imposed upon us), you are told to sit down because no one is making you go to the brewery.

        1. You are combining a couple

          You are combining a couple issues into one post, so let me address them separately.

          TIFs are established by City Council, not an individual alderman. All spending of TIF funds are approved by City Council, not an individual alderman. So it is a stretch to make a statement that TIF funds are a “personal slush fund” when the establishment of and dispersement of funds from those TIFs require the approval of a majority of City Council. For the record, there is not a TIF on Oakton near the Smylie Brothers site.

          Secondly, the brewery that’s being “imposed” on south Evanston is not using a single dollar of TIF money, it is all being funded by the owners/developers and will generate more than $200,000 a year in rent and taxes to the city. The establishment of a craft brewery in the I2 industrial district, which is where the subject property is located (it is not in the park), is a permitted use by zoning law. Smylie Brothers can operate a brewery in that zoning district and no one in the city could prohibit it. It does not require any approvals or permissions. The only reason the city is involved in the Smylie deal is because of the small restaurant attached and, as landlord, they will be collecting (a lot of) rent.

          What really matters is knowing the facts about TIF districts and land use.

      2. Revitalizing Howard Street while making money for the City

        These are the same objections raised to the City’s work to bring Ward Eight and Peckish Pig to Howard Street…caving and no profit.  But those objections were wrong.

        These two businesses have been tremendous additions to south Evanston and brought revenue to the City’s coffers.  And they are busy, bringing a vitality to the area that has been missing for years.

        So why can’t this theater do the same?  Please visit Peckish Pig and/or Ward Eight sometime soon and see what some seed money can do and how it can bring revenue to the city.  That’s getting real.


    2. Harley Clarke and Howard Street

      I heard someone make this comment after the Council meeting last night. The problems is that Harley Clarke is not located in the Howard-Ridge TIF district. The money that is being used in the renovation is tied to that area and can’t be exported to northeast Evanston for improvements to a mansion on the lake. Calling Harley Clarke “a city treasure” and one of the “things we love about this town” is also highly subjective. While a number of people do support using Harley Clarke for city programming, other residents support its demolition or redevelopment. The addition of a theater to Howard Street might be viewed by some as taking a chance. So was the city’s support of The Peckish Pig, Ward Eight, Good To Go and the other investments on Howard that have improved and will improve south Evanston. I know that some are secretly (or even publicly) betting against businesses and hoping for “another Chicken and Waffles situation,” but I am hoping our businesses continue to be successful.

  2. Renovation Cost

    City previously comitted !.4 million to the project?  Is the $204,250 for 6 months additional amounts to be used for project or paying paying City back. Seems this project was to be about 6 million at one time.

    1. Renovation

      Hi MIJ,

      My understanding is that the total cost of the renovation project is meant to be $1.4 million, with the theater group contributing $204,250 toward it.

      Then, over time, the city theoretically makes back the rest from rental payments by the theater.

      Beyond that you get into fairly speculative discussions about how much the city might have made from the property had it found a different use for it and how much ancillary benefit the theater will bring to the community versus, say, the storefront church that used to be in the building.

      The $6 million figure was for a much more lavish project that was being considered when Strawdog was the theater company the city was talking to.

      — Bill

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