Evanston aldermen vowed Monday to continue efforts to establish a black history museum at 1817 Church St. under new leadership.

But they moved to reclaim the building from a community group that six years ago promised to have the museum open within nine months after acquiring it.

1817 Church St.

1817 Church St., in a photo taken about the time the city handed the building over to the non-profit group.

Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, said that even though the group got the building for free from the city and spent over $170,000 of city funds to rehab it, the building remains in horrible condition.

City attorney Herb Hill said that because as part of the agreement six years ago the Evanston Westside Citizens District Council signed a quit-claim deed and contract documents authorizing the city to record the deed if the museum didn’t open on time, the city should once again have legal possession of the property before the end of this week.

Supporters of the community group, including Judith Treadway of 226 Callan Ave., said the city expected the group to do far more rehab work that could be accomplished for the available funds.

She said other groups and other projects had been given more opportunities over the years to receive additional funding and claimed the group had been given inadequate notice of the city’s desire to reclaim the building.

At the request of Alderman Lionel Jean-Baptiste, 2nd Ward, the council amended its seizure resolution to reaffirm the council’s commitment to the objective of establishing an African-American history museum at the site and to collaborate with a range of community organizations and private entities to get the job done.

Related story

Museum project on the ropes – Oct. 9

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Is there a crime here?
    OK, Bill. Good story but a follow through is badly needed – from any of the FOUR local media in Evanston, not counting the Sun Times and the Tribune. Where did the $170,000 go? That kind of money could of have been used for a NEW BUILDING at the site. How much of it was used to supposedly rehab the building? What was done to the building with that money? I can’t believe it’s in “horrible condition” if someone sank $170 grand in there. Or, did they? And, 6 years later the city decides to take the building back when the Evanston Westside Citizens District Council were given 9 months to complete the project? Who is accountable for this money? Does the city just give away money and never monitor how it’s used? The city doles out 170 grand of our tax money and doesn’t do anything about it until SIX YEARS LATER? In your story you mention a supporter of this group but who is IN the Evanston Westside Citizens District Council? The city reclaimed the building – are they going to reclaim the money? Is there a crime here? This stinks on every end. And to think with the local budget contraints, the city it seems is CONSIDERING TO GIVE THE BUILDING AWAY AGAIN!!!! Why not sell it and put the proceeds in the city coffers to relieve the taxpayers. It’s easy to spend other people’s money, especially the already overburdened property owners who foot the taxes on this ..I don’t know… comedy of errors, travesty, government waste, government fraud? So, if a governing body needs more money, what do they do? RAISE TAXES!
    Follow the money and I guarantee you will be surprised and shocked on what’s going on here.
    There’s a lot more to this story. I can smell it.

  2. EWCDC sought funds from the city and… anyone?
    I don’t have the entire history of this project, but my question is: other than seeking community block development grants, what fundraising was conducted by the Evanston Westside Citizens District Council? It appears from the articles I have read on this topic, that the group expected the city to donate the building, and provide all the funds for rehabbing the building as well. Was the city also expected to provide an operating budget, too?

    The city donated a building (for which it paid $175,000) and has committed over $200,000 to the project. That comes to a grand total of $375,000 from the city. Did the group seek any individual or corporate/foundation donations? Were fundraising events held?

    Perhaps the community group should have put as much effort into raising funds to rehab the property as they have spent trying to make the city look like the villain.

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