The Downtown Performing Arts Center Task Force presents its final report to the Evanston City Council tonight — a report that says developing the facility the task force recommends would cost about $37 million.

The task force report envisions that the funding would come from several sources:

  • 40 percent from a capital fundraising campaign for the project
  • 20 percent from government grants, potentially including funds from a local tax increment financing district.
  • 13 percent from bank debt.
  • 27 percent from funds raised by the theater group that would become the building’s anchor tenant.

The task force is encouraging the aldermen to adopt a resolution supporting creation of a downtown performing arts center and the city’s role “as an integral partner.”

It also wants the council to endorse a collaboration of the Evanston Community Foundation, Downtown Evanston and the Evanston Chamber of Commerce to establish a non-profit or low-profit limited liabiltiy corporation to move forward with the project.

But City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz is recommending that the City Council only “receive and accept” the report tonight and direct him to develop recommendations for next steps by Sept. 21.

The task force, appointed 18 months ago by Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl, envisions a facility that would have three theaters seating between 100 and 350 people, with the largest controlled by an anchor tenant that would participate in financing the project and the smaller stages rented out for varying time periods to smaller theater groups.

It imagines that the entity controlling the facility would have a budget of over $850,000 a year and generate most of its revenue from rental income and concessions, with the rest covered by fundraising and tax revenue sharing.

After considering a variety of possible locations for a new performing arts center, the task force suggests that three locations — the southeast corner of Benson Avenue and Clark Street, the library parking lot at 1718 Chicago Ave., or the Chase Bank drive-thru and adjoining vacant lot at 601-11 Davis St. — represent the most promising sites.

Related stories

No money in place for new theater concept (6/6/15)

Developer considers downtown theater concept (6/5/15)

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

Downtown arts panel to look for strategy (3/13/14)

Study eyes 3 sites for performing arts venues (1/9/13)

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. They have to be kidding !
    With all the problems and needs Evanston has, they propose:
    “20 percent from government grants, potentially including funds from a local tax increment financing district” i.e. expect that Government Grants are “free money” that has no effect on taxpayers—it comes from taxes everyone pays ! and it sounds like a new increment district where we probably will never reclaim any benefit from and in fact if this scheme fails will put us further behind.

    “13 percent from bank debt” i.e. put the city more in debt despite not being able to fund Pensions as it is.

    When will the Council get out of the funding for every hair-brain idea including arts groups coming out of the walls.

    1. millions needed for Downtown Arts?

      I know this is comparing apples to oranges…..BUT…..what about the millions needed for the new Crown Center?  This has been going on for 10-15 years now..and THAT center WILL be needed and used!  This is the ONLY local ice rink that has never been tended to…..Skokie, Winnetka, Wilmette, McFetridge, Franklin Park, Heartland..(and probably more that I don't know about)..all have been rebuilt, partially built and/or gotten seriously needed upgrades.   One of these days, the compressors will blow, and people will say….why did that have to happen?   Then it'll be many months to get up and running again, with a huge loss of revenue.  Help, please…..they're running out of duct tape over there!

    2. Benefits of an arts center downtown

      Years ago, I opposed the multiplex theatre in downtown Evanston. Wow, was I wrong. It has proven a boon for local restaurants and other businesses downtown and once completed, it helped put Evanston on the North Shore cultural map as a worthy destination. I believe the proposed Arts Center would have a similar impact on downtown. Yes, it does take awhile for the benefits to manifest themselves, but they do eventually arrive. It also would probably make the value of local real estate rise over time as well. I believe those who evaluate the project with a short term view are making the same mistake I did in the distant past.

      1. The city council has stated

        The city council has stated that they do not want local property values to rise because it would reduce the availability of affordable housing. Ask Wilson and Tisdahl.

      2. Thanks for the memories!

        If I remember correctly (circa the Bill Clinton era), after the downtown Dominicks store was torn down, the empty lot was used as a long term parking lot ($2.00 for 10 hours) that served the Metra riders going into the Loop.  When the Century Movie Theater wanted to build a cinimiplex there, the city council debated the issue for about six years before giving it's approval.  Sometimes this city of ours can be so silly/willy.  I was amazed that Century just didn't walk away like Sears did when they wanted to locate where the old parking garage was on Sherman ave. 

      3. Funding for Multiplex vrs. Art Center(s) ?
        I too thought the Multiplex would fail in one sense—too many theaters and some would close—or electronic media would reduce theater attendance.
        Fortunately that did not occur.
        But did the city buy land, give deals, give loans or sell bonds for the Multiplex like they are proposing for the arts theater ? It was a successful business, unlike the arts center(s) which will probably only continue to eat taxpayer money for many years.
        Regarding the Multiplex. As I recall six theaters were to be [and as part of the right to build] ‘arts’ films like foreign movies, film festival prize winners [“Primer” would have been a clear choice but never shown there]—as the Wilmette theater did/does, Devon did and I think Skokie did somewhat–, etc.. As far as I could see from the shows, that was never done.

  2. Pie in the sky

    The city wants to fund the Theater on Howard street with our money since NO theater group can raise the even 1-2 million – ( the council wisely killed this and it is coming back due to Ann Rainey and should be killed again!) –

    What Theater group is going to raise $10 million dollars – even Wally is back peddling on this one, by just saying accept the report!

    1. Money for NU instead ?

      If the Council would give the money to NU instead of all these 'arts' products, the residents would actually see some benefit instead of another cash cow as sop to the pseudo-arts Intelligentsia.

      NU knows how to use money and manage budgets—something the Council and managers have never learned.

      Actually I wish the Council would keep its hands off all their 'selected winners' and lower the tax burden on residents..

  3. Let them build it on the

    Let them build it on the Chicago side of Howard St. It would still be close enough for Evanston residents to attend. There is nothing here that will benefit Evanston. It is just more welfare for the arts, like the millions given to the EAC by our generous city council.

  4. Prioritization – Key to City Government

    I urge the city council to reject the plan for a performing arts center in downtown Evanston. There are many more urgent outlets for the limited funds available and there is limited appetite by the citizens of Evanston for even more spending on non-essential things. 

    We want you, the city council, to make Evanston a better place for all. To wisely manage the tax revenue which we entrust to you. To make good decisions for the future of our city for all citizens. 

    The performing arts center will compete with many other fine venues nearby, including Northwestern. This is a project for the elites. It is not needed. Please vote no. 

  5. Performing arts center

    It looks great! But why must we keep stuffing everything into downtown? Why not pick a spot like the Evanston- dodge shopping center? It's got the space, tax incentives, and more near by?

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