Evanston aldermen tonight will be asked to approve creation of a nine-member committee to recommend next steps toward the possible creation of a downtown performing arts center.

If you think you’ve heard this tune before, it’s because creating a performing arts space downtown has been the subject of a number of previous studies over the past decade.

None so far have come close to providing an economically viable strategy for achieving the goal.

After two years of work, the Evanston Community Foundation released a study, “Advancing the Arts in Evanston” that called for creating an advisory committee for arts in the community among other recommendations.

In 2011 a Downtown Evanston study looked at the possbility of turning the former Varsity Theatre building on Sherman Avenue into a performing arts center.

In 2012 a study funded by the National Endowment for the Arts suggested the need for as many as four performing arts venues downtown — but left questions of how to fund them unresolved.

And earllier this year a preliminary report from the evanstARTs study, funded by the city and the community foundation, produced an array of recommendations, and portrayed the arts as a potential major contributor to economic development.

Meanwhile the city has struggled to come up with an economically viable plan for two existing arts venues it owns — the Noyes Cultural Arts Center and the Harley Clark mansion.

Top: A conceptual rendering of a theater that might be built downtown, from the 2012 study.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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