Preliminary plans for a mixed use development that would include a long-hoped-for downtown Evanston performing arts center are to be unveiled at a 1st Ward meeting tonight.

The proposal, from Chicago-based Farpoint Development, calls for redeveloping two three properties on Sherman Avenue north of Church Street — the former Varsity Theater building at 1706-1710 Sherman, and two adjoining buildings — the three story 1712-1722 Sherman and the two-story 1724-1726 Sherman.

The development team, headed by Farpoint principals Scott Goodman and Patrick O’Connor, envision a mixed use development on the site, with the performing arts center at the base and a hotel or residential tower above.

Goodman and O’Connor didn’t return phone calls this morning seeking further details of their plans.

The development would likely require vacation of the alley that separates the two buildings.

With the alley, the parcels total nearly 45,000 square feet. The city code requires projects of that size to be approved as planned developments. The properties are zoned D2, which permits a building height, with planned development allowances, of 125 feet.

Update 2:30 p.m.: Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, says the developers have secured an agreement with Northlight Theatre to occupy theater space in the proposed building. Northlight, which got its start in Evanston, is now based in Skokie, but has been rumored for some years to be interested in returning to Evanston.

Fiske says she hasn’t seen any renderings of the proposed development but that she’s heard it is planned to be around 20 stories tall.

Goodman was co-founder of Sterling Bay, a developer known for bringing suburban-based companies to downtown Chicago and landing Google’s midwest headquarters for a Fulton Market site.

He left that firm last year to form Farpoint, which is among the companies chosen by the City of Chicago in June to redevelop the former Michael Reese Hospital site.

County records indicate the 1712-1722 Sherman building is currently tax exempt, owned by Northwestern University.

Various sites have been proposed for a downtown performing arts center over the years — including the Varsity Theater building itself. The most recent previous development proposal, which hasn’t gotten off the ground, called for a location at the southeast corner of Benson Avenue and Clark Street. A previous plan suggested building on the library parking lot on Chicago Avenue — a property that is now planned to be redeveloped as an office building.

The 1st Ward meeting will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. in the community meeting room at the Evanston Public Library.

Related stories

Skeptics pounce on theater TIF plan (2/5/16)

Downtown arts center cost pegged at $37 million (7/27/15)

Developer considers downtown theater concept (6/15/15)

Panel eyes three stages under one roof (3/28/14)

Downtown arts panel gets to work (2/7/14)

Downtown arts: Let’s have another study (9/23/13)

City gets federal grant for arts center planning (7/12/11)

Group to scope out Varsity prospects (8/16/10)

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. No Public Funds

    Let them purchase the building at market rates or NU can give them it if they want—but not if any NU student expenses [tuition, R&B, Fees] are increased.

    No city, county or state funds [after all those wind up as taxpayer hits anyway], no special deals or rent or guarantees. No zoning changes. In other words NO city involvement. 

  2. What about Nichols Hall?

    Are Evanstonians not aware that their downtown is already home to Nichols Concert Hall, at 1490 Chicago Avenue? One of the loveliest places to hear a concert in the entire Chicago area, this room is perpetually underutilized, under-appreciated, and underfunded. I hope that support for this new development will not in any way threaten the hidden gem we already have (and which sorely needs our support to maintain and update).

    1. Different performances

      Hi Andrew,

      Most of the descriptions of the “performing arts center” concept over the years have envisioned having spaces suitable for various theatrical performances,  Nichols works well as a music performance space, but doesn’t have the facilities to meet most theater groups’ needs.

      — Bil

      1. Theatre
        If no public funds are utilized and the tax base is increased, fine. Of course, where all these theatre goers are going to park their cars is up for grabs. Valet parking? A busy narrow street with Valet parking? And how many current parking spaces will be lost affecting the current businesses (the ones who haven’t left already). But sure: go for it. It’s not like any of the current business models have worked.

      2. Thanks, Bill. I hadn’t

        Thanks, Bill. I hadn’t followed the performing arts center conversation until recently, when the specific Northlight plan came up.  

  3. yes there are several theatre

    yes there are several theatre venus on NUs campus including ones that get utilized by non NU groups. It seems completely unnecessary to put enother one downtown and particularly on a stretch where the businesses (like GAP) actually thrive instead of in a more remote area where one might want to draw foot traffic

  4. This is not a theater.

    This is not a theater.

    It’s a high-rise condo disguised as a theater.

    Big-money developers want to knock down old downtown block by block, and they are hiding behind the performing arts as an alibi.

      1. Destroying the residential character of downtown

        That makes no difference. It’s tearing down a vintage building to put up another real estate tower.

        They are destroying the residential character of downtown and they are disguising it as an “arts district.”

        1. Non-residential

          Curious how you can claim that tearing down three retail and office buildings containing no residential uses — and replacing them with a building containing 152 apartments — can be called “destroying the residential character” of downtown.

          Need to get your buzz words right. Try saying it’s destroying the “traditional, low-rise commercial character” of downtown, instead.

          — Bill

    1. The town has been “uglified”

      The town has been “uglified” by the big builders.  The city has lost its charm, and is only going to turn into a glut of ugly high-rises.   Money seems to be the foremost issue…not keeping the town as a friendly, homey palce to shop and eat.

      1. You are exactly right. Make

        You are exactly right. Make your voice heard to your alderman and stop this development.

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