Evanston’s City Council is scheduled Monday to approve $3 million in American Rescue Program Act grants to two economic development projects.
Two million would go to Northlight Theatre toward its $26 million fundraising campaign to build a new performing arts center on property it owns at 1012-1016 Church St. in downtown Evanston.
The theater, which was founded in Evanston in 1974, has operated from the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie since 1997.
One million would go to The Aux, toward its $7.3 million fundraising campaign to develop a vacant warehouse property it owns at 2223 Washington St. to house a collection of businesses focused on “community wellness and racial equity.”
City staff evaluating the proposals rated Northlight’s plans as reaching 95% of the possible points for a project with The Aux plans getting 88.33%.
Northlight reports raising $10.4 million for its project so far. The Aux has raised $1.7 million.
Staff memos say the city would take a lien on each of the properties to recoup funding in the event of foreclosure or other defaults, but those liens would be secondary to financial institution loans.
Although I have subscribed to Northlight for over 20 years, I think this much funding from Evanston is too much. Parking is a real limitation as a major difference in audience access. At their current location, there is plenty of free parking in the attached lot and the free parking garage. less than half a block away. Most of the audience is elderly so few would be taking public transportation at night, especially in the high season of the winter months. It seems to me that their current theater could be renovation to in cluded flexible additions to the stage capabilities ( a trap door, for instance). Patrons to restauants wil not appreciate paying metered parking rates until 9:00 when theycan park free across the street at Old Orchard Mall or niext door and Jamison’s. Northwestern U has excellent theater options, though not the professional performances of Northlight. My vote is against a large subsidy for Northlight and to strongly consider revisions for evening street parking in downtown Evanston.
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